During his visit to India in 2016, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that the company is going to open an App Accelerator in the country. The centre situated in Bengaluru would help developers to make and design better apps, and get guidance from Apple engineers. In March 2017, the app had officially taken place.
"We've got a growing community of developers here in India, [and] it's remarkable. We have just under half-a-million registered developers - in terms of people working on those teams - and the app ecosystem, the estimate is somewhere around three-quarters-of-a-million people working on the app ecosystem for iOS," Apple's VP Phil Schiller said during the launch.
“India is home to one of the most vibrant and entrepreneurial iOS development communities in the world,” Tim Cook had said last year. “With the opening of this new facility in Bengaluru, we’re giving developers access to tools which will help them create innovative apps for customers around the world.”
One year on, we take a look at what the centre has achieved and what challenges it faces.
Developers on the centre stage
The company is pushing a lot of education-based apps out of the Accelerator. And there has been a special focus on Augmented Reality (AR) based apps as well since the launch of ARKit.
On March 27th, Apple held an event centred around education, where it launched a new iPad. At the event, an app called Froggipedia was demonstrated. That app was from an Indian company called Design Mate, which built it with the App Accelerator's help. The app helps children understand the anatomy of a frog without dissecting one in a lab.
"A team of five developers were taking sessions here in the accelerator for Two weeks. And that helped us improve our UI, UX and design. We actually built in the feature where you can dissect a frog with the Apple pencil acting as lab different lab equipment," Captain KD Brar of Design Mate told Killer Features.
Another education-based app developer, Sahi Labs, is banking on AR to teach children lab experiments. Swapnil Agarkar of Edu 360 said that the company chose the iOS platform because of the support his company is getting from Apple. Soon he is going to approach schools to incorporate his app into the curriculum.
Mirelz, an app launching soon, uses AR to simulate different looks for women. The co-founders of the company told Killer Features that the Accelerator helped the company in a big way with incorporating AR features which can give the user the best experience.
A company called Fuild Touch founded in 2009 was one of the first companies to make iPad apps. It is one of the regular visitors at the centre.
"Our aim is to design notebook equivalents on iPad and iPhone. Here at the Accelerator, we got the best guidance on optimising the design and incorporating features. For instance, we have included scanning of the documents in the latest version of the app with the help of the ARKit," Rama Krishna, the CEO of the company said.
Notably, the Accelerator is helping young developers such as 10-year old Ashwat Prasanna who has already submitted two apps to the store with the help of the Swift Playground platform.
Apple says that there are almost 740,000 iOS-related jobs across the country, and it is helping them in the best way. But the developer community has some contrasting thoughts.
"The iOS community is small in India but it is not as active as the Android community," Aakanksha Sharma, an iOS developer at Network 18 told Killer Features, "All the meetups are organised by the community and there is hardly any way to reach Apple apart from the Accelerator."
She also said that it is hard to visit the centre for her as she lives in Mumbai. In her opinion, Apple should arrange seminars or meetups in other cities as well. Another iOS developer chimed in with a similar opinion.
"There was an international Swift conference last year in Bengaluru. Otherwise, there are community-based meetups," he said. However, he believes that Bengaluru is the ideal place for the App Accelerator. He thinks that a big challenge for developers is to get in touch with Apple engineers for guidance. The only way that can happen at this point in time is at WWDC or the Bengaluru Accelerator.
An engineer at one of the leading startups in India told Killer Features that the company held a special session at the Accelerator to get guidance on the design which was helpful. But it is hard to find a good iOS developer due to the comparatively low demand.
Swift India community's founder Alvin Varghese thinks that Apple should be doing much more. The community holds regular meetups across multiple cities in India, including Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Ahmedabad and other cities.
"When the centre started, the engineers there just used to show presentations using videos from WWDC. But over time it has improved," he opined.
As per statista's report from 2017, the iOS market share in India is close to 3 percent. Even the report from Statscounter indicates similar numbers.
The way forward
Apple's App Accelerator in India aims to produce more world-class apps going forward. It is now opening business and marketing tracks as well to guide developers and entrepreneurs in those areas. The community, however, feels Apple should have more accessible centres.
"Apple has made this centre in Bengaluru but the developers in other locations don't get any advantage of that. There should be more workshops or sessions across the cities with the engineers but I am not sure Apple policy allows them to do that, " Varghese says.
The challenge is different for Apple. While there is a pool of developer talent in the country, the market share is a hindrance. Even when the sales are improving, an average Indian doesn't spend much on apps. While Indians are downloading more apps, they are not splashing much money on those. Apple now has to try and give the Indian developers the world stage and let them sing in code.