Updated February 26th, 2024 at 20:10 IST

Unlearning muscle memory: Challenges that face PhonePe’s Indus Appstore

Walmart-backed PhonePe launched the Indus Appstore as an alternative to Google Play

Reported by: Gauri Joshi
PhonePe CEO Sameer Nigam on Indus Appstore launch | Image:PhonePe
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Not an easy road: When one thinks of apps, they instantly think of downloading it through the Google Play Store for Android apps.

But Walmart-backed PhonePe’s foray into launching a localised appstore aims to challenge that.

The Indus Appstore is aimed at changing user perception in terms of product, PhonePe CEO Sameer Nigam told reporters in a roundtable.

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It allows users to login with just their mobile number, and allows for AI-enabled personalisation. What differentiates it is the feature of short videos-led app discovery, where companies can list their app trailers for users to land on their apps.

“Entering markets early, and shaping it with developers” is how PhonePe plans to create a dent in apps listing on the Indus Appstore, and users accessing it.

Another way they seek to earn user and developer trust is by not offering a listing fee for at least a year, especially after Google and Apple are facing pushback by apps for levying commission fees and charging for third-party app payments.  

Additionallty, it is in conversation with mobile phone makers to pre-load it on the handset.

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The Trajectory

The Indus Appstore was originally an Operating System (OS), co-founded by Rakesh Deshmukh, Akash Dongare and Sudhir Bangarambandi in 2013.

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In 2015, it partnered with Micromax in a bid to break Google’s monopoly in the ecosystem, but then went on to shift its focus on being an app store known as the Indus App Bazaar.

It established partnerships with about 10 OEM partners including Micromax and Karbonn. 

In 2019, the Indus App Bazaar became Samsung’s Galaxy Appstore, at a time when the industry is witnessing an exponential increase in app downloads from smaller towns and cities across India.

PhonePe went on to acquire Indus App Bazaar for $60 million in 2021, and canceled all B2B partnerships since the “rules or merchandising are dictated by Google or Samsung,” Nigam said in the roundtable.

Customer acquisition will happen through driving people from PhonePe to the Indus Appstore, he said. The Appstore is available to all Android devices running Android OS 8 and above. 

Rakesh Deshmukh quit the company in December 2023, he posted on Linkedin. This was almost three months short of the app launch. His next move is not known.

It is to be seen if the change in hands will be enough to challenge the Android Appstore monopoly, emerging from a muscle memory and Google's interface dominating Android smartphones. 

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Published February 22nd, 2024 at 13:53 IST