Ambition to bring more people online as goodwill to the society drove Shailesh Nalawadi to quit his Google career and materialise a solution from white paper to reality. While working closely with Google Maps, he spent a lot of time in the emerging markets. It is then that he realised though more people are using smartphones as its price was dropping tremendously, but looking at data consumption and statistics from the operator, one can see that the cost of access was really high.
"When we started off thinking about mobile Internet, we noticed that especially in India and across emerging markets, there were lot of users who used smartphones but did not have the data on their phones; mostly because they were confused about the charges or worried about high data charges. Because of this their smartphone was not really very smart as it was an unconnected device," Shailesh Nalawadi, co-founder of Mavin (Silicon Valley based mobile startup), told BI.
Though it is an academic problem, there are actually people in the mobile app economy for whom it is a serious business problem. Hence the journey of Mavin began. A concept similar to cashback in retail, Mavin gives a platform to the operators to allow mobile apps to reward their users by giving them mobile data when they use these applications. By offering low cost mobile data, it aims to make smartphones "really smart".
"We are unique in the sense that we have a very specific solution with respect to data," he said.
India being a country with a bullish mobile app economy, Shailesh has rightly targeted the Indian market.
"Our target audience is all prepaid smartphone users in India because we think that this is where the consumers are value conscious. Also they are making these data rationing choices throughout the day because they are trying to stretch their monthly data budget for as far as possible," observed Shailesh.
"Convincing people that this is a real problem and solving this is in their best interest is the most important challenge. When there is a new concept in the market, even if something very similar to cashback, people always doubt whether it will work for them or will it incentivise the right behaviour for them? They doubt what if there are features they don't want?" said the Silicon Valley expert.
But having worked as a product manager with top companies in the same genre, he has the solution and it is quite simple; to engage them to small mobile app trials.
"Convincing them to try a small portion and then opening out in full version is how we plan to overcome the challenges. We could also advice them on what kinds of incentives would work best for the users," he added.
Talking about life at Google, Shailesh is confident that quitting his job was the right decision.
"Every now and then you get convinced that there is a problem and you need to solve it. I realised that I can solve or at least attempt to solve this problem much more effectively outside Google than inside of Google. Actually nothing from Google in the last few years has done anything to solve the problem, at least for India... I believe the mission of our company (Mavin) is helping consumers come online with low cost mobile data," told Shailesh.
He added that they have been able to change the experience of the consumers online through Mavin. Here, they support net neutrality through unrestricted data for the unrestricted internet as they truly believe that universal internet access is a force for good in society.
Shailesh is currently responsible for product direction in Mavin Inc. Previously he worked in Product Management at Google, helping launch features in Google Maps, Google Glass, and Gmail.
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