In India, today marks the season finaleof the Nokia-sponsored TV talent show ‘Your wish is my app’. It’s Dragon’s Den for app ideas, if you want an easy analogy. The winning entry gets made into a real app for the Windows Phone Store and the person who came up with it wins a million rupees.
But, as series host Rajiv Makhni reveals to Conversations, it has produced a number of surprises that no-one on the production team was expecting.
Can you explain the procedure for gathering ideas?
The procedure had to change quite a bit from the original plan. We publicised the call for app ideas. But we thought it would have quite a niche appeal. We expected maybe 5,000 to 10,000 submissions.
In fact, the idea really resonated with people and we ended up with 38,000 entries.
That caused a bit of a problem because we didn’t have the resources to go through the entries. We also felt a great sense of responsibility to look at them all properly. We didn’t want a great idea to slip through the cracks because we were rushing to narrow down the entries.
So Nokia helped by organising multiple small teams of employees to work carefully through the entries. They got down to about 250. Then the series judges selected around 50 to actually appear on the show.
What did you learn in the course of the process?
That massive response was a real eye-opener. And there was incredible diversity among the entrants. In the final, there’s an 82-year-old woman and a 7-year-old boy. People from all walks of life. We were expecting mainly college students, but instead we had teams of housewives; grandmothers would present, followed by their grandsons.
There are a couple of things in that. First, yes, the prize money and being on TV appeal to a lot of people, but this specific topic has a special appeal. The desire to make a mark, being able to create a real app that has its own life in the Store, has a very strong hold on people.
The second thing is what smartphones have done to people’s relationship with technology. As I said, we were expecting a bunch of highly-educated college students, but technology has become much more democratic than we realised. People feel they can get involved and say, “Listen. I’ve got an idea to improve this experience.”
What has it shown you about the apps market?
It’s become very clear to me that there are too many apps in this world.
What I mean by that is that the most common way in which entries failed was by being the same as something that already exists. They weren’t cheating – it’s just really hard to find what’s available because none of us has the time to look through hundreds of thousands of apps.
That problem is something we’ve fed back into the judging process for the finale. We’ll not just be asking people to justify their apps, but also how they will ensure that people will find them.
We have to ask – what’s the worst idea anyone came up with?
There were a lot of terrible ideas, but one in particular stands out very clearly. I think the man deserves some kind of award.
The man came before the panel. He was very earnest and sincere. And we asked him what his app would deliver.
He said, “I want an app that makes me have conversations with pets.”
We looked at each other: at first we thought he was messing us about. But he seemed very sincere so we asked him for more information.
He said, “Well, I would speak into my phone and the phone would translate it into dog-language. Then my dog could bow-wow back into the phone, and it would translate it into my language.
“Of course, the phone would need a special button to switch between different types of pets.”
And lastly, what were some of the big themes that were revealed about the Indian marketplace for apps?
To talk about one: there was a very significant proportion of apps that were attempting to tackle the issue of women’s security. It’s a real problem in this country, as everyone knows, but large numbers of people – male and female – are facing it head-on and looking for solutions.
There have been a number of very innovative ideas – not just wish lists, but people have researched the market to see what’s available and looked at how to improve on that.
I take that as a very positive thing. And who knows? Maybe events like this show have the power to change the situation.
Thank you for your time, Rajiv, and good luck to all the finalists!