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A decade after its launch, the Seva mobile app store still languishes

Built by the Center for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) in 2011, the Mobile Seva app store initially only hosted government apps.

In March 2021, the government attempted to revive Mobile Seva by opening it up to private apps as well. Ravi Shankar Prasad, who was the IT minister at the time, told Lok Sabha that the App Store hosts more than 965 apps from various public service areas.

“As the government encourages private players to host apps, it also wants to develop and encourage its own mobile app store,” he said.

However, as of April 15, the store only had 1,058 apps, many of which were government apps. Among the platform’s main private applications are the digital payment platform Paytm and the social media application Koo.

Mobile Seva has recorded only 88.5 million app downloads since its inception, even as Indians downloaded more than 27 billion apps from Google and Apple’s app stores in 2021, according to data.ai (formerly App Annie).

Globally, Indians were the second-largest app downloaders, accounting for 11.6% of all app downloads globally, according to data.ai’s “State of Mobile 2021” report released in January.

Why has India’s ‘atmanirbhar’ app store failed to catch on? Analysts point to several reasons: lack of partnerships with phone manufacturers, inadequate promotion and poorly designed user interfaces.

Some analysts said the limited adoption clearly reflects the fact that private companies have not found it worth investing in despite launching as India’s native app store.

“The government had allowed private apps on this store last year, and Paytm and Koo had volunteered to put their apps on this platform. Since then, there have been no promotions to boost the store, nor have there been any OEM (original equipment manufacturer) tie-ups to make Mobile Seva the default app store on phones,” said Prasanto K. Roy, analyst for technology policies.

He added that if the Union government wanted to make a serious push for the adoption of Mobile Seva, it would approach smartphone brands on the Make in India bandwagon, like Xiaomi, which could help push its adoption. .

The social media app Koo has been present on the Mobile Seva store since January 2022. Its adoption, however, has been largely limited, according to Mayank Bidawatka, co-founder of the app.

“Adoption is still low on the platform, and we’ve seen around a thousand downloads from it so far,” he added.

Given the limited level of adoption, Koo has not made a concerted effort to offer Mobile Seva as a way to download its app. Bidawatka said Google Play Store remains the de facto choice for most of its downloads, and although the government platform offers benefits such as no deductions on in-app payments earned, such factors do not matter. difference for a service like Koo, which has no in-app purchases.

He also said that keeping the Koo app on an additional platform forces the company to separately focus on delivering all the updates it makes to its Android app on the Play Store.

“We try to keep updates as regular as possible, but it’s a cumbersome process to follow,” Bidawatka said. Since its addition to Mobile Seva on January 11, the Koo app has not received any updates. the update on the Play Store arrived on April 8.

Sijo Kuruvilla George, executive director of the Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF), said the organic advantage that Google and Apple already have with their app stores would not be surpassed simply by removing in-app payment commissions. app.

“Private apps such as e-commerce services would only want to be present (on an app store) if there is a large user base. The Play Store and App Store already allow developers to access to massive user bases, and cheaper payment tools are not enough of an incentive,” he said.

Software restrictions discourage most users from trying other stores, he said. “Even on Android, although the ecosystem is more ‘open’ on paper, if the average user tries to install apps from another site, Google warns them that the app is dangerous, which which might put off many unsuspecting users,” he said.

The lack of a refined user base could also discourage the adoption of Mobile Seva. Roy said government services don’t always provide the best user experience, which slows organic adoption.

“Such growth would only happen if the government issued a binding regulatory mandate, or if private startups decided to be highly nationalistic and chose to migrate only to a government platform. It would be difficult for them because they would lose customers,” he added.

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