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BW Businessworld

Making Smartphones Smarter

Indus OS brings the first regional-language smatphone operating system; the company, formerly known as Firstouch, recently raised $5 million series A funding led by Omidyar Network

Photo Credit : Subhabrata Das


Indus OS is revolutionising the mobile industry. And how. The world’s first regional-language operating system, which currently supports 12 major Indian languages, is helping non-English speaking Indians to harness the power of online and digital through smartphones. Not just that, Indus OS — the most used smartphone operating system in the country after Android — is also boosting the penetration of smartphones in India, which had stagnated due to language barrier despite drop in device cost. In fact today, most Micromax phones under Rs 10,000 are powered by the Indus OS, and that in itself explains the company’s current status in the OS market share charts.

The company, formerly known as Firstouch, recently raised $5 million series A funding led by Omidyar Network, to support its lofty target of reaching one billion emerging market users.

Talking about how it all started, Rakesh Deshmukh, Indus OS CEO and one of the trio of IIT-Mumbai graduates who founded the company, says,“In 2012, when I was employed with a mobile service company, I had worked on a project that involved android customisation for Burmese language users. My 14 months of experience on the project helped me understand the working of its business model, which we later adopted in the Indian context, to build Indus OS.”

Indus OS, which intends to minimise the digital gap between urban and rural centres through a robust regional-digital ecosystem, has immense potential for monetisation. But it is not something Deshmukh is concerned about at the moment.“Currently, our focus is on the product. We want to entrench ourselves in this market, and get the right talent on board. We are not thinking about the monetisation process at this stage. Being the first to deeply customise a smartphone experience that meets the real needs of India’s regional language speaking citizens, we plan to continue with our vision first.”

Being ahead of its time, Indus OS’s journey has been very challenging. But Deshmukh and his team are constantly working to make it a great experience. Indus OS currently has a customer base of over 5 million. “When we started, the biggest challenge was getting the right team in place to build our operating system. The other challenge was since our product was a completely new offering, it was difficult to convince clients about its immense potential. But now, we are the only major company to have found a solution to reach out to the regional consumers in a big way. By all means, it has been a challenge worth taking,” adds Deshmukh.

Dealing With Disruption

The great focus on the product can be gauged by the fact that out of the 100-odd people the company employs, more than 85 per cent are working on the technology front. The idea is to consistently stay ahead of the curve by bringing out differentiated products.

Currently, Indus OS comes preloaded in a number of mobile devices; Micromax has run the OS in about 25 models. Designed with simplicity and Indian users in mind, the OS faces little competition from brands like Samsung and LG, who have developed vernacular OSs for their devices. But when asked about how prepared Indus OS is for yet another disruption in the space of its operation, Deshmukh says, “As far as competition and future disruption is concerned, let us not forget that we are the first to build an Indian operating system, and that gives us an edge over competition. Moreover, we are constantly innovating. We know that mobile technology is changing by the day, but we are better prepared to tackle challenges. Innovation is part of our DNA and we are ready to tackle any new disruption that may come our way.”

[email protected]; @RenAameen