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Episode 7 – App’s Growth and its Future in India

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In episode #7, Google India’s app marketing solutions manager, Rajat Srivastava, will talk about the future of apps in India and how one can take advantage of them to grow their business. Rajat also discusses his work in digital marketing, attribution, and category management domains with our host, and the founder and managing director of Infidigit, Kaushal Thakkar. 

Let’s join today’s Growth Genius, and find out the importance of developing apps and marketing them for the growth of a business.

Ninety per cent of the users take three hours from the time they add a product to the cart to the time they make the final purchase. If the user is not really making the purchase even after three hours, does it mean should I intervene? As a brand should I tell them about, you know, hey most of the people already shopped by this time? If you’re taking longer, can I help you? Or is there something which… which is a relevant communication, but it just drives back the intent for these users.

Some of the important points that are covered in this segment:

  1. What are the benefits of a brand having apps? (05:20)
  2. How a brand can start with apps? (07:25)
  3. How can you gain more app installs & users? (11:42)
  4. Is there any change in users behaviour during this COVID-19? (20:41)
  5. Which are the tools for app success? (29:15)
  6. What is the future of apps in India? (33:58)

[00:24] Kaushal: Welcome friends to The Growth Genius Podcast powered by Infidigit. My name is Kaushal Thakkar. I’m the founder of Infidigit and your host for the show. Each week, I interview geniuses who have created phenomenal digital growth. We discuss the key techniques and share insights to help you learn and create your own growth story. 

Many Indians witnessed a really fast transition from feature phones to smartphones. With around 400 million smartphone users, we are the nation with the second-largest number of smartphone users just behind China. However, China is far ahead with almost double the number of smartphone users. Considering these two countries have almost the same population, India will be at par with China soon.  

It means in the coming years; we are going to witness a 100% growth in smartphone users. And this will lead to an increase in the usage of apps on smartphones. Today, we are going to discuss the topic ‘apps growth and its future in India’. And we have with us a growth genius from Google, who will be sharing the insights related to apps with us. Join me in welcoming Rajat Srivastava, who leads the app product and portfolio for Google’s large customers in India. He drives the go-to-market strategy, and product adaptation for all new product and feature launches around the app campaigns. Let’s learn more about apps from this growth genius from Google. 

[01:52] Kaushal: Hi, Rajat. Thank you so much for being on this show. How are you doing today?

[01:56] Rajat: Hey, Kaushal. Thanks for having me on this show. 

[02:00] Kaushal: Great! Covid times, so you must be missing the Google office in Bangalore for sure.

[02:07] Rajat: That’s true. I think one of the perks of being in Google was the entire office space where you could get amazing food. And, definitely, missing that but I think it is a different kind of experience to be working from home and still trying to be close to your team members, clients, and partners. 

[02:21] Kaushal: I just visited the Google office a few times when I was working in Myntra. And you have a lovely cafeteria, definitely something which people will miss during these days when you are restricted from going to the office. 

[02:34] Rajat: True! There’s a concept called G15 which is about 15 pounds that you add or about 7 ½  kgs that you add to your weight when you join Google in the first few months because there is so much food around. 

[02:45] Kaushal: Okay, Great! That’s nice. Perfect! So, Rajat, many of our listeners may not be aware about you. If you could help them with a quick introduction of yourself that would be great. 

[02:55] Rajat: Sure! My name is Rajat Srivastava. I have been fortunate to work as an advertiser in the app marketing space as a measurement partner to advertisers and as a media network company…employee in my last three years. My experience spans across the three key domains of app marketing – digital marketing which is where you run your campaigns, attribution which is where you major impact and category management to closely understand the marketing activities of the business. 

My previous roles include managing the category sales at Flipkart, after that I was also working for Reliance Retails – Ajio, leading their performance marketing activities across app acquisition and retention, and after that, I joined AppsFlyer where I worked with a team to other advertisers help understand how to measure and make the most of their app campaigns. And currently, I work with Google, where I lead the app campaigns products and business for Google’s large customers’ mandate. 

[03:50] Kaushal: Great, that’s wonderful. And other than the food, how would you think the…working for, let’s say, an organisation like Ajio or Flipkart vis-à-vis Google would be?

[04:01] Rajat: I think each of these organisations have a very strong culture, and that’s what makes them unique, and I have been fortunate to have been exposed to all of these. With Google, I can say the first thing that you feel is something called the imposter syndrome where you realise that all of the pears and the people who you are working with are super smart. And, that’s good and bad because you get to learn from a lot of smart people around, and so you become smart with them. But it also gives you a sense of some sort of discomfort where you feel that you need to do so much more to be really better. And I think it’s a good place to be because growth really comes from the place you are being uncomfortable. 

[4:39] Kaushal: Very True! And that also maybe acting as a talent creation place because when you put in such a kind of situation, definitely it’s not only that you grow well, but it is also that you are able to help many other people along with you. So, that’s definitely a good place to be. 

[4:56] Rajat: Absolutely! And I think that’s where companies like Flipkart, Ajio, and even Myntra have a great startup community impact as well where people from these companies have gone on to start other ventures as well. 

[5:06] Kaushal: Very true! And thanks a lot for sharing that, Rajat. Jumping onto the topic for today – App’s growth. I would like to start with the first question and understand more about – what are the benefits of having apps for a particular brand? 

What are the benefits of a brand having apps?

[05:20] Rajat: If you really step back and look at the consumers and think of where the consumers are, I think for a brand it’s important for a brand to be really close to their consumers. If you think about it, today we spent about four hours a day on our mobile phones. And excluding the time we are sleeping, that is about  25% of our entire 18 hours. And when we are on our mobile phones, we are either looking at videos on YouTube or we are browsing on social apps, or just consuming content in a different way. 

That just means that brands should be closely associated with their consumers. They have to have their presence on a mobile device. Coming to why specifically apps, I think there are several benefits that an app provides. The first is that the entire consumer experience is so much better on an app, it’s faster – you have the option of having a  flexible user experience where you could customise and personalise it to the users’ needs. And you could also use the smartphone features really well. So, you could potentially tap into the location of the user, or you could use the features like device camera or sharing with other apps and so on. And I think that’s what makes apps powerful. 

And if you look at the bottom line, which is performance, typically the conversion rate on apps is about 2 or 3x better than they are on a website or M-sites. 

[06:38] Kaushal: Perfect! On the M-site?

[06:42] Rajat: Correct. That’s right.

[06:44] Kaushal: True! That’s about brands also. They can definitely get 2-3x kind of conversion rate, so that’s a big benefit for the brands for being on the app. And you mentioned about the users as well that they would have a much better experience as compared to the web. 

[06:58] Rajat: Yes, and I think the other benefit is also where…brands are always connected, so rather than the user coming to a brand so the front or walking into an offline store, I think, apps are available for 24×7, right? So, you could speak to your consumers whenever you want. And that goes both ways. The consumer can approach a brand whenever they want. So, I think it’s just that much more convenient for everyone. 

[07:20] Kaushal: Perfect! Rajat, how could a brand initiate their app journey?  

How can a brand initiate its app journey?

[07:25] Rajat: That’s a good question, Kaushal and I think what we see now is more and more brands who are not looking at apps as their biech strategy are now considering it because offline and other mediums are a little limited. So, I think the first thing to understand is business first, which is what is the use case that you’re trying to solve for your consumers? And how does the app help answer those questions? The second is really the development nuances to it. So, how do you get started? And once you have the use cases defined, and you have the UI, and the UX flows defined, then really, it’s about the development itself. 

Typically, in India, if you’re starting off Android is the preferred platform if your use case is to reach out to masses. And IOS is a different user set, but it’s also premium users comparatively. So, it depends on what you want to prioritise as a brand. I think from there; the first step is to start with the development itself. And of course, there are Google tools available, like Firebase that help you across the journey of the development of your app. So speaking more about Firebase, for example, it’s a free tool that provides three broad use cases, and the first use case is around how do you build better apps, and that includes solutions like hosting, cloud storage, machine learning modules that you might want to use later for personalisation, and so on. 

Once you have the basics in place, then you want to improve the quality of the foundation, which is when you look at features like Crashlytics, where you understand in what scenarios could your app not be working the way as intended. Or you could look at app distribution modules where you want to release the app to a limited set of users, get their feedback, understand and build a minimum viable product before releasing it to everyone else. And the third step is really to grow your business, which is a lot around marketing and making sure that you have let’s say the in-app messaging pieces solved for your consumers, you have Google Analytics built-in where you understand the user behaviour. And you also have features like A/B testing and Dynamic Links that enable you to make your marketing more effective. 

[9:13] Kaushal: Perfect! And a user would be able to use some of these features and maybe use some other utility or other tools for some of these features?

[9:24] Rajat:  That’s right. Yeah, so I think these are all independent modules, and you could pick and choose from the selection available to the ones that most suit your needs. And of course, you could choose to go with a different solution as well if you think there’s a better alternative as well. 

[9:32] Kaushal: So, a different development environment, that’s what you’re referring to?

[9:37] Rajat: Correct, that’s right. 

[9:39] Kaushal: And integrate Firebase for something like analytics or something like that? 

[9:41] Rajat: Yes, so I think of these three buckets, which is either making better apps or improving the quality of the app or growing your business, you could pick and choose specific modules that mean the most to you. For example, there are a lot of new features around Firebase, which will improve the performance of your paid acquisition campaigns. So, if you’re spending money to acquire users, it would improve the quality of those users as well. 

[10:04] Kaushal: Oh, nice. That’s good. And Rajat, one other question which comes out over there is for many apps, the development of the environment is already done. So, they have already built the app on some other technology or some other platform. But they want to use Google Analytics or let’s say Firebase Analytics. So, do you think for those users directly integrating Google Analytics, the app segment of Google Analytics, is that a better option? Or should they use Firebase in such cases?

[10:32] Rajat: Firebase has now become the de-facto platform for everything on apps. While Google Analytics itself has been around. I think Firebase is the platform that I would recommend for our users, everything to do with apps. 

[10:42] Kaushal: True! And in such cases, the analytics of let’s say the web and the app, if somebody wants a 360-degree view, they should be able to get a 360-degree view, even in such a case when they’re using Google Analytics for maybe their web plus Firebase for their app? 

[10:59] Rajat: Yes, so I think there is a new feature that has recently been launched, which is called app plus web properties within Firebase, which allows you to do exactly that. All of our consumers and we as users are really moving towards multiple platforms, we would either start a journey of a transaction or a content view on one and really complete it on the other. And that decision cycle can span multiple touchpoints. And an app plus web view, for example, helps you get a unified view there. 

[11:22] Kaushal: Great! And the next question, which comes over there Rajat would be let’s say, the user-developed the app, and now the next stage once the app is developed, and they’ve integrated Firebase etc. the next question which comes is how do you gain more installs? How do you gain more users on the app? Any advice for users who want to get more app installs? 

How can you gain more app installs & users?

[11:42] Rajat: Yes, so I think broadly there are about five or six sources that you can think of from where your users can come from, right? And the first way a user could come to the app is organically. So, I already let’s say, know about an Amazon or Flipkart app; I go to the Play Store directly, I download the app directly from there, I know about the brand. And this takes years of efforts or brand building activity to be really known at scale, and which is very, it works wonderfully for larger brands. But for smaller developers and people who are starting up organic presence may not be as much, which is where you have to really depend on the other channels. Of course, the other one, which is the most commonly used is your paid acquisition channel. So, you have app install campaigns that you can run on Google or Facebook or affiliate network partners, and they will deliver to the outcomes that you have defined at a certain threshold. 

So, for example, speaking for Google app campaigns, it’s actually a machine learning completely automated campaign, which you just set a goal of a CPI or which is a cost per install, or a cost per action, let’s say like a cost per registration, and you give the creatives, and the machine learning algorithms get you the users within those boundaries. So it’s a completely automated solution works very well for people who are starting afresh or don’t have the resources to invest in marketing. The third bucket really is around referrals, if you remember, let’s say if I refer Kaushal, Kaushal gets certain points, I also get a benefit. And that’s where virality and word of mouth become important. 

And this goes back to not only apps but if you remember, OnePlus when they launched had this whole invite model, which became really popular, because there is a fear of missing out, you trust your friends. When they recommend something, it’s really you take their word for it and which is where their referrals are also effective. The fourth is around CRM or your own media channels. Let’s say I have a list of email ids or I have a list of phone numbers, or I have a list of users who I know I can reach out to and ask them to download my app. Let’s say that’s the fourth bucket which is relevant. And there are two which are fairly new compared to the others but are also gaining traction. 

The fifth is really influencer marketing. So the term is new influencers have always been around. We know them as Bollywood celebrities, and they have endorsed products for multiple years, right? So when you see a Shahrukh Khan advertising about a product, you certainly feel connected. The same way there are thought influencers in each area, and they have a deeper following, and that’s when you could use them as well for building awareness about your app. And the last is really around alliances or co-marketing, which is where two brands come together and offer sort of barter or exchange where say, here’s what I can offer to your users, which is complimentary and in return, this is what I get. So it’s combining the efforts of two brands to deliver results for both. So, it’s broadly a win-win. And those are the common ones.

[14:13] Kaushal: Perfect! Let’s say I buy a particular phone, and a Facebook app comes pre-installed on that, or Amazon app comes pre-installed on that would you term that as an affiliate or a co-marketing alliance? 

[14:26] Rajat: So it would lie somewhere between a deal that you could strike with a brand so let’s say if you’re speaking to an OEM manufacturer, you could tell them, this is what you know, I want to pay for. So, let’s say, I don’t want to pay for every Preburn that is done on the app, but I am willing to pay for every activation that happens or every registration that happens from the Preburn. And I think that’s where those models come into play. Those are again, I think, seen more commonly for larger brands, which want to reach out to masses, whereas the other mediums are more targeted when it’s more relevant, and you are controlling who you want to reach out to. 

[14:57] Kaushal: Perfect! And while gaining the installs many times, we see that there are many cases where while the app gets installed, but we do not see active users, as many as the installs. Are there any things which we need to be aware of? 

[15:10] Rajat: Yes, so I think wherever money is involved, fraud follows. And here’s when I ask you back a question Kaushal, could you guess the amount of fraud that is typically seen on app installs, let’s say last year in India?

[15:20] Kaushal: Not much aware about it but may be 20-30%?

[15:24] Rajat: Yeah, you are aware of it Kaushal: So I think that’s the right ballpark figure.  About 30% of installs that you see are really a fraud. It just means that you know, people might want to take credit for installs that never happened and which is where it is a big challenge. I think if you talk to advertisers across the board, you will realise that there are certain sources, which are comparatively cleaner, and this is where Google, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and so on are the cleaner channels. Whereas fraud is more commonly seen in affiliate networks and so on. That’s the problem because now you want to make sure that you’re safeguarding yourself against potential fraud that might be happening, which is an overhead on your analytics platform. So always keep in mind to look for fraud signals, if you are running paid campaigns. 

[16:00] Kaushal: Okay, and your fraud signals over here other than let’s say install happened, the user did not come, are there any other ways to understand what is happening over there in terms of fraud? 

[16:10] Rajat: Yes, so I think there are multiple types of fraud here. The most common one is to install hijacking. So, let’s say an install did happen, the user also came in, but the user was not really coming from the source who claims that the install has come from them, right? So, let’s say if I’m standing in a shopping queue, and there is a person who’s coming in the billing line. And I just say, “Hey, here’s my coupon use this to the bill.” Now while what happens is for the retailer, he sees that you know this person who gave the coupon influenced the decision, but really, the person was already in the shopping queue, he’d made his decision to buy a product. optimisation

So, I’m just stealing the credit for this transaction, which is what happens on install hijacking as well. And there are multiple types of such cases, which is why being aware definitely helps. And there are a lot of industry reports that are useful to understand what are the common types of fraud, but typically, what we recommend is to start with using your own user base the best. The most effective way then looking at safer channels. And if you are exhausting that or you know, if you feel that there are limits to the efficiency that you see, there is when you open up beyond that.

[17:00] Kaushal: Then you move to the other networks? 

[17:08] Rajat: Correct. 

[17:14] Kaushal: Okay, fine. And once these users are acquired, let’s say they are on a particular platform or a particular app, what would be the best way to retain those users because I see that also as a regular channel coming from many of our customers. 

[17:26] Rajat: Absolutely! So, we have to realise that as marketers, no matter how much blood sweat and tears you put in, the users may not stay back. And I think that’s where it’s really for your geeky listeners, if I were to put it, it’s the second law of thermodynamics, which basically says that there will always be some energy that gets lost. Now what that means is we need to know why should a user come back to the app? 

So, if I’m a user, why should I come back and visit the app after a week or after ten days, and I think its freshness of the content driving back to the app. So, that let’s say in the context of shopping again, Flipkart and ecommerce apps like Amazon have these daily deals. So, I shop for something yesterday, but I want to come back and see what’s there today. Like what’s the deals of the day today or what’s the lightning for today. And that’s just you know a way for me to come back and try the app. In some cases like food delivery apps Zomato and Swiggy, you have the use cases of repeat purchases. So, I ordered a North Indian cuisine yesterday, but today I want to order Chinese, and that’s the repeat use case for that specific brand. And of course, brands like gaming and entertainment apps like Disney+ and so on are by design meant to have multiple use cases within a day or within a week. So those are where you would really expect the users to come back often. On the other extremes, are your apps like FinTech apps, which provide loans, right? 

And if I’ve taken a loan today, it’s very likely that I may not use the app really for the next few weeks or months also and hence in each of these four or five examples that we spoke about what’s important is to know what’s the benchmark that your category has and how you are faring against and then you really know that, are the users staying back at least on an average for how long they’re staying back for the other apps in the same category. And I think just in terms of what do you do to make sure that your users really don’t go away once you know those benchmarks the first is to really identify key milestones in the user journey and prevent potential churn that might happen from each step. 

So, let’s again go back to the ecommerce example, because that’s more easy for us to understand because we all shop online all the time. If I understand that 90% of the users take three hours, I’m just making these numbers up. 90% of the users take three hours from the time they add a product to the cart to the time they make the final purchase. Then if I see that the user is not really making the purchase, even after those three hours, does it mean should I intervene as a brand? Should I tell them about you know, hey most of the people already shopped by this time, if you’re taking longer can I help you? Or is there something which you’re stuck with? Or have you forgotten something, which is a relevant communication, but it just drives back the intent for these users. 

And then of course, so that’s one which is commonly used through your push notifications, and so on. And the other really is paid marketing again. So Google app campaigns for engagement, or ACE is again, a machine learning-driven product which does the same automatically. So if you are a user who’s one of these buckets, which were engaging with the app earlier, but are not the ad campaigns will target users like this across search, display, YouTube and Google Play, to drive you back to the app to complete the action or engage with the app again. 

[20:24] Kaushal: Great, that’s nice. And any changes which you’re seeing Rajat now let’s say COVID has completely changed the behaviour of many users. Anything which has changed drastically pre COVID and during COVID in terms of apps, the behaviour of the users?

Is there any change in users behaviour during COVID-19?

[20:41] Rajat: So, I think there are again two broad shifts that have happened. One is that there are a lot of net new users that we are seeing on the apps, right? And I’m sure all of us as listeners would agree that, let’s say, our family members are using apps like Zoom, or gaming, edu-tech or my dad, for example, makes his payments of electricity bills online on the app which he has never done before always used to be in queues and so on. So, these are an entirely new set of users who have very different behaviour from what we’ve seen earlier. And second is even the user behaviour of existing app users have changed. 

So, essentials over everything else, which means that the way I engage with the app is again very different from what it was five months back or six months back. And that just makes the lives of marketers a little more difficult because we’ve built understanding over time of what works and tweak that. And I think some of that may not be relevant in the current time; there’s much higher volatility overall. Which is where again, I think dependence on automation and machine learning becomes important because those signals are really adjusted in a much faster way through a machine learning algorithm than a human being could ever do. 

[21:42] Kaushal: Perfect, that sounds good. Now, we covered the app installs you also told us that how to retain user on the app. So let’s say if a digital marketer or an app owner wants to understand whether his or her app is doing well or not, what would be the important metrics that they should look out for? 

[22:00] Rajat: Kaushal, again I think the first thing is to not look at any metric in its own right. There are metric pairs that you can look at or understand what within the context of the setup does this metric make sense for me or not? And that’s the first thing you should keep in mind. The other is there are two types of basic metrics. The first is around acquisition, so when you are acquiring users, how efficiently are you acquiring those users, right?  And that’s the first set of acquisition metrics, let’s say, the cost per install, which is the most basic metric. It used to be really important earlier when installs were everything. But now it’s people are moving away towards more deeper funnel or lower in the journey activities, like let’s say, purchase or registration and so on. So what’s my cost per registration is let’s say a metric that is relevant for a lead-based business or what’s my cost per transaction for an ecommerce company? Or what’s my cost per subscription for an OTT company. And the funny thing is if you really were to take any three letters and create an acronym, there will most likely be a metric for an app. There is DAU which is daily active users, there is MAU monthly actives, and really not being bogged down by each of these but focusing on how effectively or efficiently are you acquiring the users that’s the first set. The second is around engagement. 

Once you’ve acquired them, how long are they engaging, how are they staying back, right? So this is where the retention rates become important in the context of benchmarks like I said earlier for your industry. You could also look at uninstall rates. It’s no good that if I spent a hundred rupees to acquire ten users, and a month later, all of those ten are gone, and I’m left with zero again. So, I think, why are users uninstalling the app uninstalled rates and so on are the other ones and then there are really your deeper engagement metrics, like average sessions per user or page depth on how many pages did they visit inside the app before shutting it down. But to be honest, I think it’s easy to get trapped in the whole metric optimisation goal. 

What’s really important is to look at a NorthStar metric and understand you know, if I’m completely improving my business by at least one of these key metrics, and one of those common metrics is now the lifetime value example. So, if I have paid hundred rupees to acquire a user, is that user giving you back 101 rupees in their lifetime, which is let’s say six months or three months or one month. If they are giving me back those value, then me spending that money is justified, which is how marketing becomes efficient. And those questions are being asked a lot more to businesses in the context of COVID than ever before. Looking at not just the first touchpoint, which is an install or the first transaction, but really looking at the entire lifetime of the users is where I think a lot of us will start working on the short and the midterm.

[24:45] Kaushal: Okay, and that would help them to understand what’s the return on their initial investment in terms of gaining the user also, what is the lifetime value of that user? 

[24:52] Rajat: Absolutely, Kaushal you are right.

[24:55] Kaushal: Perfect! And Rajat here you mentioned about the benchmarks of the industry. While you mentioned several metrics, and I understand that the benchmarks would be different for different industries. Is there any source of information where let’s say if a particular etailer wants to understand that, hey, what are the benchmarks for the retail industry? Or what are the benchmarks for the insurance industry they could go and understand it?

[25:20] Rajat: So, I think that’s an important point Kaushal thanks for bringing it up. A lot of what we do is dependent on industry reports to understanding how the ecosystem is moving towards. And there are a lot of players who publish these reports regularly. And these are providers who have a presence across each of those. So let’s say an attribution partner will publish their reports on you know across their apps, what have they seen their retention rates like. So what’s the average retention rate for D1, D7 and by D1 and D7 I mean one day after the person installs the app or seven days after they install the app. Similarly, there are push notification providers that provide their industry reports on how they see how often do they see retention rates changing for each industry. So there are a few of these, and they keep getting published quite frequently. But if I were to put a name, I think AppsFlyer publishes one which is the state of app marketing report. CleverTap has one that they publish quite frequently as well. App Annie is a good source which has again reports on the overall trends across apps and categories in India, and globally as well. So, I would say those three or four are the most common ones that you could look at.

[26:20] Kaushal: Perfect! And Rajat you brought up the word notifications over here, so that helps me to bring up this next question to you that’s one thing which usually I turn off on my phones, because sometimes it becomes an irritation, but at the same time there is a fear of missing out again on some of the important notifications which happen. Some of the brands purposely stop the notifications when they see this user behaviour that okay the user is not opening any notifications, but most of the other brands don’t do it. Is it a good practice to turn off the notifications from the brand side itself? 

[21:29] Rajat: I think it’s a good question. And there has to be a balance in this like everything else. So, what are you risking basically, with a lot of notifications? The first is there could be like you rightly mentioned notification fatigue. So I am tired of looking at the same type of notification multiple times, so I don’t even look at it. I dismiss it completely. In some cases, it even increases the uninstall rate because I did not realise that I was getting so many notifications, I might as well remove this app completely and install it later if I have the need. So, there are those outcomes as well. And the other extreme like you rightly said is whether I want to do away with completely removing notifications entirely. 

So, I think the balance has to be somewhere in the middle so that it’s useful for the users at the same time. It’s also not spammy. So, for example, a lot of us depend on our order updates, that they’re out for delivery or shipping today, and so on to understand you know that what’s the current status of my last shopping spree that I did late last night. That said, I think this is where again, the paid marketing activities can complement your notifications. So, sorry one point I missed was notifications are comparatively cheaper, isn’t it? So that’s why it’s more efficient, at least from a cost perspective, if you’re looking at a really short term, the paid marketing on the other hand, like Google App campaigns, for example, you have the option of setting a goal. And then you realise that even outside of your app if a user is spending time on YouTube, watching videos or on searching for something, and then you have the option of taking or getting him back to your app there. So, as long as the economics is working there, you could potentially also do complement your own media channels with a paid campaign as well.  

[28:29] Kaushal: Perfect! And for the listeners, the app which I was mentioning in terms of notification is DeepStash. It’s a really amazing app if you don’t like listening to a book like me or reading a complete book,  Deepstash is the app. They stop the notifications if you do not respond to the notification after a particular point in time. And that’s what I appreciate about them. 

[28:47] Rajat: Interesting! You’ve given me homework for the weekend. This is what I’m going to do tomorrow and day after.

[28:52] Kaushal: Yeah! I read books, maybe sometimes in five, five minutes, at least the summary of the books. So that really helps you can gain lots of knowledge from this. Rajat, that brings me to another question while you told us about Firebase. And that’s one of the tools which could be used for in creating an app success story. Any other tools which you would recommend for app success.

Which are the tools for app success?

[29:15] Rajat: So, there are about three or four buckets which one should look at for their app activities. The first is around attribution, which helps understand where are the users coming from. So, I did ten things. I sent an email, I sent an SMS, I ran Facebook campaigns, I ran Google campaigns, and ten users came finally, what worked? And that’s where attribution helps decide, what’s the right credit source for this activity? That’s first. The second is user analytics. Once they are on the app, what are they doing? How much time are they spending? What pages are they visiting by? Why are they going away? That’s user analytics, building cohorts of users understanding their patterns. That’s the second most common SDK that you might want to have inside the app. The third is around marketing automation, or some of the things that we discussed. So push notifications and so on, how do you power that from within the app. So if a user does action A doesn’t do action B could we trigger a notification and those kind of things is where marketing automation comes in. And the fourth really is more from a product standpoint where they would like to make better apps, and outside of Firebase also, there are other tools, which might help you understand the use of analytics and production analytics a little in detail. So, that’s’ I think, the fourth bucket. 

[30:27] Kaushal: Nice, that’s wonderful. Let’s jump to App Store optimisation. That’s something which many of my clients asked for that okay, can you help us with App Store optimisation because we are more into the organic space. For the users who want to do App Store optimisation, my first question over there do you think it’s an activity which should be done or it should not be done? 

[30:47] Rajat:  So, I think definitely it’s useful. And I think like the way it works for search engine, I think ASO works for apps as well. And there are categories where it works better. And there are categories where it may not work as much, right? So and while I am technically not an expert on App Store optimisation. I think what I’ve seen as a more common practice is where the users are not really aware about the exact brand or the use cases where their search is more exploratory. So, when I’m searching for, let’s say, the example of a gaming app.

Let’s say I am searching for a puzzle game. Now I don’t have a specific app in mind yet, so I want to look at multiple things. I want to look at different games and understand which one should I pick, which has got great ratings, which have more people installed, which sounds more exciting to me. This is just a hypothetical example. But I think it’s clearly it’s relevant and it’s useful, which is where the need for experts around there is even higher. And apps overall are getting crowded. So, like I think I mentioned earlier, there are about two million-plus apps just on the Indian Playstore if I’m not wrong. So that just means that the discoverability of each app becomes that much more difficult. So how do you outside of spending money and so on, make sure that you are reaching out to the right users, when they are looking for you is useful.  

[31:54] Kaushal: Understood! And over there while we witnessed multiple techniques and views from your side in terms of the app growth, any particular example of app growth, which you would like to share with our audience? 

[32:08] Rajat: So, I think I can talk about two, and they’re both quite recent actually, as you might know about the ban that our government did for the Chinese apps, and that led to the short video app space becoming very, very active. And this is all in the last I think one and a half, two months if I’m not wrong. So, that just means that a lot of our developers, Indian developers came up with apps within a short span of time, which was in the same space. And kind of the same use case as long as largely what a Tiktok was they drove millions of installs every day.

Even today, if you are listening to this in the month of August, you would see that most of the apps in the top-ranking space on PlayStore would really be around short video space. That just shows the amount of interest there is both from developers as well as consumers to try this the set. And the second, of course, is just around the time of lockdown all the grocery and OTT and ed-tech apps saw a massive spike, right? So how many people do you know in your family today? This is a question to all of our listeners. How many people do you know in your families who have asked you a question around how do I use an ed-tech app for my child or for my family member, and that’s becoming much more common, right? Because a lot of people are using more and more of apps like by BYJUS and so on to understand and teach their kids. So those are the two examples I would say.

[33:27] Kaushal: Perfect, and yeah, on that particular question of yours how many people around have asked for ed-tech for me it has been several. So, I can at least remember 10-15 people doing that when you asked that particular question? 

[33:40] Rajat: Absolutely! I think the same for me. Every week, I’ll get a question on something to do with an ed-tech app.  

[33:45] Kaushal: Perfect! The apps you already shared some numbers, and they’ve been doing really well, but where do you see the apps in the future? Let’s say another five years down the line, what do you think is the future of apps in India? 

What is the future of apps in India?

[33:58] Rajat: So, I think apps will definitely have evolved a lot from the last 12-13 years since the launch, and I think they will be significantly different going ahead as well. There are a lot of connected devices which are coming in now. So you would have your entertainment apps on your TV, for example, right? And that’s why an extension of what is called an app but it will go beyond just being on your mobile phone. So let’s say another example I could think of is something called as PWA or progressive web apps, and TWA, which is trusted web activities. All again three-letter nomenclatures just like I said before, but essentially making sure that users who are on the lower end devices or who are… who don’t have as much computing strength on their phones are also able to access and get the power of apps. So, it will move beyond the really smartphone over that we are sitting on right now to a connected device on your TV, or your wristwatch and your lower-end devices as well. 

[34:52] Kaushal: Okay! You’re saying that okay a PWA ends app in terms of let’s say, Firebase app may not compete with each other, but yeah they may go hand in hand in the near future? 

[35:03] Rajat: Absolutely, I think the definition of apps will become a little more relaxed. And right now it’s strictly something which is a native app. But it’s becoming more diluted every month, right? So PWA, for example, is where the M-site becomes evolved really gives additional capabilities and move one step closer to being an app. A trusted web activity TWA think of it as a wrapper around PWA so you could actually drive campaigns for TWA, for example, which means that instead of having the users download a native app, which takes space 40-50 Mb, it is a much lighter and a smaller version. And it still does a chunk of what a complete app would do?

[35:40] Kaushal: Great! Any good examples of PWA or TWA that you’d like to share with the audience? 

[35:48] Rajat: One is from Myntra who has an app for a specific version, which is lower than a specific Android OS version. So, what Myntra wants is that anyone who’s on a lower Android version will most likely be on a basic four, they can also access Myntra as an app, and that’s where TWA comes in. Similarly, I remember OYO also, I think has an app, which is of a similar type wherein specific geo and specific area that makes more sense for the users than a complete native app.

[36:15] Kaushal: Got it! And the user will have to do something very different for getting on to the TWA version or just a go to the Playstore and type Myntra they would get the version based on their phone type. 

[36:26] Rajat: Yeah, so there are parts to the distribution of the app that you could control. For example, you could say, for a specific Android version, I want to show TWA instead of the native app. 

[36:35] Kaushal: Okay fine and that person would be in fact not installing the app on the phone, but would be accessing the app or the PWA version just via the internet itself? 

[36:48] Rajat: Yes, so it’s very close to the app experience. So it doesn’t really feel like it’s better user experience that way. 

[36:54] Kaushal: Yeah, it’s actually a web experience, which the person is having while they have an icon on the phone, but at least they will be able to access everything which is accessible via the web. 

[37:04] Rajat: Absolutely. 

[37:06] Kaushal: Okay, that’s quite a bit of information which you shared with us around the apps. Now let’s share some more insights with the audience about you itself. So, my first question would there would be in terms of who do you follow? 

[37:15] Rajat: So, I think I like to read a lot, and I keep looking at and bookmarking articles that I find interesting across LinkedIn, TechCrunch, and a lot of other blogs, which are in the same tech space, largely. Besides that, we spoke about industry reports. And I think those are a great source of understanding what’s happening by the experts, right? So the App Annie or AppsFluer and Clevertap reports are useful for documentation around deep linking and so on. So, understanding from these sources is really useful coming from the experts directly. Then there are people who are, of course, great thinkers, and speakers. 

And what I like following these people is not just understanding the outcome, but what is their thought process behind this. So, a lot of our users might know about Avinash Kaushik he is a pretty famous blogger and writer on all things analytics. And every post that he writes has a lot of thought behind it, and I think that’s really useful. However, I think there are a lot of other users who write great content, and it makes sense to follow them on LinkedIn at least to get a sense of what their thoughts are, and that’s becoming more common now. I see a lot of our peers writing more often. And that’s great because I think we need to do more as the industry to help our newcomers and folks who are joining this industry for the first time to really understand what’s the best practices across. That’s where the podcast like you’re doing Kaushal is a really great step. 

[38:30] Kaushal: Yes, and thanks to you for being on this show, which helps you also become a person who is sharing this knowledge with the industry. Thanks for that. And Rajat I was going through your LinkedIn profile and saw that over the last few years, you have r grown really fast from your stint at Flipkart and AppsFlyer and now to Google, you’ve grown really fast. So what makes you remain growth focused? 

[35:56] Rajat: So, I think I’ve just been lucky on at least the roles part to get the opportunity that I got. That said, I think in terms of the growth area, what I want to look at, and I want to do actively is focus on this one quote, which is actually from one of my ex-classmates, who’s now the CEO of a great nonprofit organisation called 321 Foundation. His name is Gaurav Singh, and he used to use this quote in his teaching classes to underprivileged children a lot which is, ‘what am I going to do about it?’. That’s the quote, which basically puts you in a frame of mind where you’re saying that okay, I know there’s a problem. I know there’s an opportunity, first of all, how do I make it actionable? 

And second is what is my role in this? The first thing I want to do is try and own a lot of problem statements as if they were my own as if I’m spending money for a company. What if it was my own money? What am I going to do about it if it was my money? So really owning is I think one part and the second is to work backwards from an ideal outcome. If you’re thinking about a completely undefined or unsolved problem, what is the ideal state where you would want to be in a little while down the line and how do you work backwards from there, right? So mapping each step backwards till the point, you feel it’s realistically achievable is where growth again can come from.

[40:08] Kaushal: And Rajat, let’s take my favourite question which I ask each of the growth genius who is there on the show if you could time travel at this minute to the beginning of your career when you had just stepped into the corporate world, what would be the suggestion you will give yourself to your younger self? 

[40:24] Rajat: That’s an interesting one. So, I think if I could time travel, maybe the first thing I would do is take a pit stop six months back from now and try to stop the pandemic, and tell people that they should be more cognizant and be wearing more masks. But jokes aside, I think if I were to time travel, maybe what I would do is help myself really early on to find good mentors. And I think mentors help us become a much better version of ourselves than we would… we would get there, but we might take longer. 

So, find the right kind of mentors that you think are willing to help out, seek their help. And I tell myself that you know to find a mentor for each of these areas. So, let’s say find a mentor for analytics understanding of data, find a mentor who could help you in public speaking, for example, find a mentor who helps you understand how to perform or use a tool much better way than you today are using, right? So, I think learning from people is the easiest and the most efficient way, and I would tell myself to do more of that.

[41:17] Kaushal: Perfect, that’s nice. And names of any mentors of yours, which you would like to share with the audience? 

[41:23] Rajat: So, I think there are quite a few. There are mentors at each level. My first manager Deepak Kolingivadi, he was a super helpful, super interesting person who understood what each person’s skills were and nurtures them in the right way. That was definitely one, I think, Google has a lot of such folks as well. So they may or may not be seniors, or they may be your peers. But understanding from each of them, given their strength is what kind of has helped me.

[41:44] Kaushal: Perfect! And any advice for the listeners who specifically want to work at Google? What should they do to be at least qualified or crack the interview at Google? 

[41:44] Rajat: So, I think I would say the first thing to know is that Google… how does Google evaluate or what are the key aspects of the interview process that anyone looks at? And there are broadly four categories, right? The first is role-related knowledge. So of course, how well do you understand the role that you are being hired for from a technical perspective or from a business perspective that’s one. But that’s only one-fourth of the skills really, that is being looked at the other three are leadership, which means have you taken initiatives? And how have you gone beyond the basic or the expectations of the role to really deliver performance? The third is general cognitive ability. 

So, if you were put in let’s say a new situation, which you haven’t seen before, or a different problem area than what you’ve been working on, how well are you able to frame your thoughts and come up with an approach that is more realistic, practical and soluble? And the last is really googliness, which is a term used often within Google that how’s the culture fit? Right. So are you helpful? Do you understand the culture at Google? Are you in a frame of mind that is more growth-focused in general? I think that’s the fourth bucket. And the other bit is to really reach out to any Googlers that you have interacted with in the past is another advice I think, I find a lot of people at Google are significantly helpful and are willing to guide others. So if you think you have a connection with someone, reach out to them, ask them for inputs, and that definitely helps. 

[43:13] Kaushal: Perfect, that’s really good. Thanks for sharing. So, Rajat what we are going to do next is a step into the Speed It round. So I would request you to keep the answers for these questions really short, maybe a few words. 

[43:28] Rajat: Okay, do I get a hamper at the end? 

[43:31] Kaushal: Definitely, we could do that we could courier across to you.

[43:34] Rajat: Just joking, go ahead Kaushal.  

[43:36] Kaushal: Yeah, one question over there while you already gave us that really interesting quote, which I am unable to remove from my mind, ‘what am I going to do about it?’ Would you term me that it serves as the quote that you live by or there is something else? 

[43:49] Rajat: I think that’s the quote that I really like. And I think it makes me look internally a little bit more and makes me more action-oriented. So, yes, what am I going to do about it is the quote that I live by. 

[43:58] Kaushal: Yeah, and that was something which would stay in my mind as well. Thanks a lot for sharing it. If not digital, what would you be doing? 

[44:05] Rajat: I think teaching I think I really like the concept of helping others understand the topic in detail. So definitely teaching. 

[44:10] Kaushal: Okay, that’s your googliness factor. Which one habit has been a game-changer for you? 

[44:15] Rajat: I think there is this thing called eat your frog first thing in the morning, which is try and address the most difficult problem early on. And that’s something that I try to do more. 

[44:27] Kaushal: And I’m a big fan of this book as well, thanks for sharing it. One thing that you want to correct in your life?

[44:34] Rajat: Give back more. I’ve realised multiple times in the last few months that while I’ve been more fortunate, I haven’t really done my part on helping others in any way I could. And I think that’s one area which I want to really get more into. 

[44:45] Kaushal: Great, and you’re already doing that by sharing so much on this particular show. Thank you. How do you define Rajat Srivastava in one word?

[44:52] Rajat: One word would be curious. Just to understand how things work, why do brands behave the way they do? Why do consumers make the decisions that they do? And right now, what I’m curious about is what’s in the fridge that I can go and eat after this.  

[45:06] Kaushal: Yeah, I have been holding you for this conversation for long.

[45:09] Rajat: I’m just joking. I think that’s a thought which is most often in our minds right now as we’re staying home. So it’s a habit now. 

[45:16] Kaushal: Perfect, yeah. So, I’ll just not stop you more from going to your fridge and checking what’s there. But yeah, a few things before we end the show is how does the audience stay connected with you? 

[45:28] Rajat: LinkedIn is the best platform I am reachable on LinkedIn, and I’ll try to respond to your messages and queries in any way.

[45:35] Kaushal: Perfect! They can search for Rajat Srivastava, and they should be able to find you? 

[45:39] Rajat: Yeah, my Id is also Rajatsri if you were to search for that as the profile id you would find me.

[45:46] Kaushal: Perfect thank you. Any parting thoughts that you would like to share with our audience? 

[45:52] Rajat: I think just one quick recap on the app marketing and how I see working close in this domain is that it’s really a confluence of hardcore technical skills which is how do you use your tools and platforms and so on. It’s the love for data so you need to understand Excel and Pivot tables in any way that you can and really the third is around creativity so while you have the data and the numbers and everything else, what language do the consumers speak and how do you talk to them in their languages is something which I think is interesting in this space. And if you are looking to work towards a long-term career in the app space, I think either pick one of these three or look at a kind of coverage around all of these three would definitely help you. 

[46:28] Kaushal: Perfect, that’s good. Thanks a lot, Rajat for being on the show we learned a lot. Especially I am going back and implementing some of the techniques which I had learned while reading that book Eat that Frog and yes I am also going to take up all the challenges which are in front of me and I am going to ask them, what am I going to do about it? 

[46:47] Rajat: Thanks again for having me Kaushal it was wonderful speaking to you and I really like the fact that what you are doing outside of your core area to help other folks within the industry is really commendable. Thanks again for that. 

[46:57] Kaushal: Thank you, Rajat! It was a pleasure having you on the show thank you. 

[47:01] Rajat: Thanks, bye. 

[47:06] Kaushal: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Growth Genius. I hope you learned something today that would help you to grow. If you did, please share this episode with your friends and family. If you are listening to the show on the Infidigit website, I would request you to use a podcast app on iPhone or download Google Podcast or Spotify on your Android phone. Subscribing to this podcast will ensure that you get the episodes regularly on your phone. The podcast icons near the audio streaming widget should help you navigate this show on your podcast app. Also if you haven’t yet subscribed to the Growth Genius, please subscribe wherever you are listening to this show.  Thank you so much for listening now go out there and create growth for yourself and your company! Thank you

Contact Information:

Genius, Rajat Srivastava

https://www.linkedin.com/in/rajatsri/

Host, Kaushal Thakkar

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kaushalthakkar/

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