Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Start-ups convert innovative ideas into applications

Last weekend was hectic for the 95-odd participants who gathered at the ‘Start-up Weekend’ here. Techie youngsters, guided by various mentors, formed teams and developed mobile or web-based applications to solve specific problems or create new experiences for users. 

The apps ranged from a flat finding app, an app for video tagging to an intra-institution social network app.

Three apps won prizes, which included free credits from Amazon Web Services, ZipDial, InterviewStreet and Ozonetel. The winning apps included ‘Park-e-mon’, a parking management solution, ‘OptiRate’—a mobile value-added service app and ‘Desi Karaoke’, a game for social networks. The Park-e-mon solution comprises two applications—a web-based portal and a mobile app suitable for any smartphone. The web-based application is used by office administrators and building managements and would have details about the offices, contact people and vehicles that would be granted parking space. 

The mobile app is used by parking attendants to record the entry and the exit details of each vehicle, and these are updated in the web-based database in real time. The app does away with two out of three people manning a parking system. The system can give a snapshot of the overall parking situation in a building at any given moment. It also enables the instant identification of cars parked in wrong slots by checking their registration number against the database. 

Though the system is not meant to replace mechanical barriers, it would introduce more efficiency by eliminating logbooks. Sudeep D’Souza, who led the four-member team that developed the app, says he plans to charge '25,000 a year as installation fee, along with a nominal monthly maintenance fee. A few companies in Hyderabad have expressed willingness to adopt the solution, says D’Souza. The solution is being run on a pilot basis at an office complex in Hyderabad, which has parking capacity of 150 cars and 600 two-wheelers. OptiRate, which won the second prize, is an app for Android phones. The app is designed to recommend the best tariff plan, based on the user’s pattern of usage. It also, through a web interface, enables recharge with a single click. 

Rajagopal Grandhi, one of the developers of the app, says his team would introduce it in the market in three months after some fine-tuning. “The users’ first experience of our app should be good, so we would take some time,” he says. The app, when installed in a phone, would alert the user about credit expiry, and also suggest the best rate plan offered by the operator that suits the user’s needs by analysing his call records. For recharges, apart from charging a fraction of the recharge value as fee, the developers expect to tap advertisements as well. 

The third prize-winning app, Desi Karaoke, was developed by a young team from the Indian School of Business. Achint Parekh, one of the app’s developers, says it was not meant for trouble-shooting, but to add a new experience to social networking sites such as Facebook. The app, currently available only for Android, is free and comes with a few Indian instrumental music tracks. It allows users to record their singing along with the background music, and this can later be shared with friends on social networks and can also be compared with the original. Says Parekh, “Games like Antakshari are popular in India, but karaoke is available only for some English songs. 

On the other side, games on social networks are changing the whole experience. Our idea combines these two trends to offer karaoke as a social game.” The developers are in talks with T-Series and other music companies for tracks. 

The app is expected to be functional in a few weeks. Parekh said the developers would consider the project a success if it touches 500 downloads a month.

Article By: B Ramakrishna

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