Crossing its share of hurdles but becoming popular
KATHMANDU, Jan 15: Five minutes before the usual electricity cuts, Pranita Nepal’s iPhone blinks with notification from ‘BattiGayo’ and she’s mentally prepared for the load shedding. A 20-year-old student, Nepal shares that the app has made it easier for her to access information about load shedding hours. Plus, she can customize the notifications as early as an hour before the load shedding starts; check the schedules for other places other than one’s own and plan accordingly. “The only thing,” says Nepal, “is that it isn’t always up-to-date.”
BattiGayo is a Nepali-made app owned by Idealaya which notifies its users about load shedding schedules.
“Our main target with apps for Nepal has been to create simple yet useful apps which are mostly problem-solving tools,” says Pravash Karki, cofounder of Idealaya. Comprising a team of designers and developers who are using their creativity to solve problems, Idealaya has also released another application, MediBook, which helps one to locate the nearest hospitals in Kathmandu and allows the access of emergency contacts from any place.
Nepali applications are gaining popularity. Take, for instance, BattiGayo, which has been downloaded 16,000 times up until now since its release and is downloaded, on average, about 1,000 times per week.
“This is based on a new technology and we have very few developers in Nepal,” says Karki who adds that the problem of funds is one of the main challenges for Nepali app developers.
“Creating an app might be a onetime thing but sustaining it can be costly. From the devices which have to be used, especially for iOS, to the platform for launching and testing these apps, everything is expensive,” he shares.
The few others in this field also agree. “The resources needed and developer’s costs are very high in this,” says Bishal Ghimire, 28, a self-taught app developer who works with Windows Phone, iPhone and Android platforms.
“App developers can turn rich overnight if their apps click with the users. But in Nepal, at present, the market isn’t very fruitful,” shares Ghimire who believes that this is partly because of the mindset of ‘downloading and using for free’ and partly due to the lack of mechanisms which allow users to buy these apps.
As a developer, Ghimire also faces hurdles due to the lack of proper data, which he can use easily to disseminate through apps. He got interested in mobile apps because a mobile has now become a device which is in everybody’s hands, and so he can share his apps with many people and become known that way. More than to generate money, which is difficult to make in the current scenario, he’s creating apps as a service, to help people.
“The main problem of our local market is that it isn’t possible to sell the apps,” says Deepen Chapagain, CEO of Nepways, a software development company which owns the mobile app ‘nLocate’. “Even those who want to buy these apps in Nepal don’t have the mechanisms to do so,” he adds.
There are other constraints for app developers focusing in the local Nepali market, be it the Internet services available or the user acceptances. Chapagain shares that with nLocate, which is an application that allows people to access information about places and events in one’s locality, the team that developed the app has worked around the constraints to create an application which optimizes the available infrastructure and technology.
nLocate has been downloaded 5,000 times since its release in the market one and a half months ago, and Chapagain says, “Although the user acceptance is small, it’s increasing in a high rate.” nLocate is also adding a feature whereby businesses can use the app to dispatch their customized information to users by subscribing to this service from the developers.
The market response is what encourages Nepali developers, despite the major hurdles they come across.
“The trend in which Nepali apps are coming up is good,” shares an optimistic Chapagain and he’s especially impressed with the app that aims to help users socially.
Idealaya’s Karki shares that the concepts of these apps are commendable. He, however, says, “Most Nepali apps I’ve seen aren’t visually appealing. I find that they are weak, design-wise.” He also says that rather than creating more apps, the emphasis should be on providing useful and sufficient information through an app to the users.
nLocate, which allows one to easily locate places in the highly dense Kathmandu City, BattiGayo which alerts people about power-cut hours, or Nep News through which users can access numbers of newspapers with a simple click, are just some names of the emerging apps made by young Nepali developers that are slowly being seen on the smartphones in Nepal.
While for its users, these apps have made life easier; for its developers in Nepal, however, creating and sustaining apps for the local market, given the limitations, isn’t a simple task.