Bangalore: Apoorva Ruparel is 15 minutes late for his meeting at the Mint office, but he has a good excuse and photographic evidence to back it up: a photo on image hosting site Flickr showing a choked road in south Bangalore, and tagged with time, location, temperature, even the weather.
The excuse and the photograph were made possible by AirMe, a photography application from the eponymous start up (AirMe Inc.) co-founded by Ruparel, which will debut in India when the iPhone launches in the country on Friday.
Currently available on the Apple App Store for iPhone users, it is a free, 60kb downloadable application that allows users to take photos, instantly tag them and send to their Flickr, or Facebook accounts.
The upload is speedy and works with mobile data service GPRS (a widely available mobile data service platform here) on 2G (second generation) and 3G (third generation) telecom networks as the average picture size, in all standard dimensions, is about 40kb.
Lest one assumes it’s an iPhone application, Ruparel is quick to add, “Within the next few months, AirMe will be available on all mobile platforms, including Nokia, Sony Ericsson and BlackBerry.”
The application will also soon allow video streaming and other destination sites, including local channels, given that people in some countries like to network regionally.
Way to go: AirMe Inc. co-founder Apoorva Ruparel.
In fact, AirMe is now integrating its application programming interface with the Dutch social networking site Hyves.
For an 11-month-old Colorado-Bangalore start up, founded by Ruparel, Keshav Murthy and Philip Easter, cracking the iPhone platform has given a good start—AirMe has had more than 42,000 downloads in 56 countries since its soft launch on 12 July.
But the company needs many more consumers before it starts making money on a free application.
And that, says Ruparel, an ex-Juniper Networks executive, will come from non-intrusive ads, which will show up only when the application is in use—while taking photos, or videos.
“We have developed an advertising platform, which will integrate commercial ads with the application,” he says, clarifying that, unlike the trend today, it won’t be short message service (SMS)-based.
Revenue growth in the mobile phone value-added service (VAS) segment is dominated by SMS today, which contributes at least 55% of the total revenue, but this share has declined over the past three years as other services have gained, says Girish Trivedi, deputy director of ICT (information, communications and technology) practice at Frost and Sullivan (South Asia and Middle East).
According to him, the size of the mobile VAS industry was estimated to be $1 billion (Rs4,370 crore today) in 2007 (by revenues) and will grow to $4 billion by 2012.
But the mobile phone advertising market is nascent in India, with merely 3-4% of the existing users being the potential audience, says Lalit Bhise,co-founder and chief executive of a Bangalore-based mobile application start up, Mobisy Technologies Pvt. Ltd.
As he positions Mobisy into non-intrusive, user-requested advertising space, Bhise thinks photography is a promising area to be in. “Camera phones are used everywhere.”
Indeed, photography and video are among the Top 5 applications, according to a 2007 Deloitte study, which showed camera use as the number one application for 63% users, followed by text messaging.
Currently looking for series A funding, AirMe intends to ultimately integrate applications for the utility, insurance and entertainment industries, which, it claims, have already shown interest.
“But for now, we want to make it a great utility for the consumer,” says Ruparel.