Pocketapp open their office in Bombay.

I have the pleasure of being in Mumbai this week. Despite the fact it takes anything from 1 to 2 and a half hours to get *anywhere* in a cab, it’s a very cool place. People are really in to mobile here, I’ve seen a lot more smartphones, particularly iPhone and BlackBerry. There are a lot of people sporting 3G dongles on their laptop, which likely explains the 3G top speed of 79kbps I momentarily saw once whilst chewing hundreds of MB of mobile data myself.

Yesterday I spent some time talking with Andrew Hull of Pocketapp, in their new office in downtown Bombay, and over the best fish tikka I’ve ever tasted.

Andrew has moved over full time with his wife and daughter to head up a new team in India. With offices already in London and Kuala Lumpur they’re pursuing a global model for app design and development. We talked for a while about the current state of play in the Indian mobile industry and the opportunity it presents. The Pocketapp team have a wealth of mobile telco experience which sets them apart from most of the new “Advertising Agency” backed mobile app companies. This kind of consultancy around content strategies, and user retention will play well with the operators here.

Both of us are exploring the what can be done now within the extraordinary opportunity the mobile market here presents. Right now the data networks are immature and smartphone penetration is still comparatively very low. The market for mobile apps, and web services is still in it’s early stages. By contrast, the European mobile market is fully saturated and recalcitrant in it’s willingness to develop it’s network infrastructure further. All the mobile people I speak to here are looking at the LTE deployments beginning next year, and the prices for 3G data bundles getting very competitive between the big operators. Prices on year old stock smartphones are plummeting too, accelerating their uptake. For example, prices on iPhone 4 and the Samsung Galaxy range have dropped 40% since I was here six weeks ago.

The speed that mobile data is set to grow here is simply phenomenal.

Andrew is planning to continue Pocketapp’s model of de-risking the outsourcing of app development by adding some local expertise to the team they already have in Malaysia. This model is working well for them elsewhere, so they’re gearing up to serve the growing demand for mobile from Indian brands. I have been making use of the cross platform, and truly excellent M-Indicator app serving up local transport and entertainment information for Mumbai residents. Being in Mumbai for a few days has shown me how this forward looking metropolis is potentially the key proving ground for mobile services.

I wish Andrew and Pocketapp every success with their Indian venture. I will no doubt be catching up with him again next year when my own move to India is complete. He’s off to droidcon India on Thursday which sadly I cannot make. If you’re there make sure you say hello, or you can contact him via their site.

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