by Sunil Shah

Mobile Application Development: How to Choose a Partner in India

Jun 10, 2015

Given the businessu2019 insatiable demand for mobile apps, ensuring you have the right partner to build an app for you could be among the most important decisions you make. Hereu2019s how not to get it wrong.u00a0

For a majority of Indian firms, outsourcing mobile application development is pretty much a foregone conclusion. This is especially true for mobile app that are customer facing.

The question then is: How do you choose a mobile app development partner? What’s important to watch out for in partner selection—and what’s not?

To find out more, we spoke to a couple of CIOs. Here what they had to say.

Look for Partners Who’ve Done Work in Your Industry. 

At India’s third-largest newspaper, Dainik Bhaskar, the move to mobile application was driven by its readers, three years ago.

“We realized that 60 percent of our traffic had moved from accessing us from a desktop or laptop to mobile handset,” says Nathan Arokia, CTO, Daink Bhaskar.

At that point the business requested the IT team to create a mobile app for its users. And like anything else in the media, the project needed to completed in a hurry.

“I have an 80-man development team, but it’s still a stretch to set aside people to develop an app, given the number of platforms to support,” says Arokia.

That’s why, he says, they decided to outsource the development of the app. He says that selecting a partner, and he is very clear that these are partners—not vendors, is initially a risk. 

“At first it’s purely on experimentation,” he says.

But the risk was still based on solid logic. One of the criteria to choose a mobile application development partner, he says, was to look for companies that had done work in the same industry.

“We look at their clients. We look at the major brands they work with. It’s always good when they can reference another important brand in your industry,” says Arokia, whose company’s mobile app has over 5 lakh downloads on Play Store.

Other mental checklist items, he says, is to ascertain how the provider is set up, both in terms of the number of people they have, their sources of revenue, how much they make, and their standing in the market.

The idea he says is to make sure the provider can handle the load.

At Aviva Life Insurance, CIO Harnath Babu’s employs a corollary of this idea. One of his primary selection criteria is the provider’s domain knowledge.

“Without domain knowledge it becomes very hard for us to communicate. And then it takes time of the partner to go up the learning curve and that elongates the time it takes to execute,” he says.

He also likes to work with niche players, he says, because that strategy lowers the cost and the turnaround time of a project.

Screen their Design and UX Capabilities

One of the key reasons for outsourcing mobile app development is to get access to design and UX skills, which are hard to find in small enterprise IT teams.

“UI and UX are important. It takes a lot of science and art to develop it,” says Arokia.

The importance of UX is crucial to the success of a mobile app, say both Arokia and Babu.

“Usability is the key. You can have the best technology but if a mobile app is crappy to use, it will turn off users,” says Babu. Aviva Life Insurance has about 10,000 downloads, a sizeable number for the sector.

In fact, Babu’s focus on design, UX, and the customer experience is so high that for an ongoing project the company has chosen to work with a design firm rather than a mobile app development company. He says the design firm is suggesting the technical partner it wants to work with.

“Creativity is a very important factors in deciding a partner,” says Arokia. 

Choose Someone Who Knows How to Integrate with Other Systems

Mobile applications don’t work in isolation. They need to shake hands with other systems to offer the experience users want.

Take the app of an electrical utility for instance. It needs to talk to billing systems, and customer record systems among others. Finding a partner who knows how to successfully integrate an app seamlessly with systems your company uses is important.

“UX and UI are what first attracts users. But it’s the usability of an app that keeps them coming back. And an app’s utility is based on the number of other systems it talks to,” says Ajay Kumar Meher, Sr. VP & head-IT and post production at Sony Entertainment Television.

Kumar says that his company has built seven mobile applications; four of which are B2C. One of the seven, the Sony LIV app, has over 5 million downloads on the Play Store.

“The handshake between systems and the app is important. The app has to be completely integrated with other systems, whether you’re talking SAP or inventory systems,” he says.  And it’s important to choose a partner who can do that well.