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A Market Opportunity for Indigenous Players – IIT Kharagpur Experts on Mobile App Ban. Director, Prof. Virendra Kumar Tewari is affirmative about IIT Kharagpur’s role in filling this void through sponsored projects and startups

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India on June 29 witnessed an unprecedented action in the area of mobile applications. 59 mobile applications developed in China have been banned by MEITY, Govt. of India citing prejudicial activities to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order. This move has been welcomed by several experts at IIT Kharagpur. While some are relieved with reduction in potential security threat, others view it as an opportunity for Indian applications to strengthen their market presence or even create space for start-ups for indigenous mobile applications. Director, Prof. Virendra Kumar Tewari is even affirmative about IIT Kharagpur’s role in filling this void through sponsored projects and startups.

The Security Threat

Prof. Raja Datta, Head, G.S Sanyal School of Telecommunication remarked on the potential security threat from these applications.

“We have to be cautious about the software we are using on our computational devices. Even if we are not storing financial data, some of our computerized biometric information may be inadvertently stored in these applications due to general user interface design. To avoid any further damage regarding exposure to our important data, it is advisable that installation of such applications be avoided.”

He further recommended investigations of these applications under restricted use, to study the attributes and make certain of malware functions if any, and take necessary steps to remove possible security threats. 

Business Opportunity

Talking about the market which has been created, Prof. Suman Chakraborty, Dean, Sponsored Research & Industrial Consultancy expressed his confidence in Indian technologists and scientists to meet the strong demand for similar products.

“The ban has only created a supply imbalance in the market which will attract Indian startups to feel the void. Also our technological research has reached a level wherein designing such products indigenously should not be a challenge at all. Take for example the healthcare domain; the available innovations by Indian technologists in healthcare devices and analytics can be improvised further to develop healthcare apps of highest scientific and technological standard which can replace several foreign-bred mobile  applications,” he said.

He also emphasized on the need for talents from technical institutions to focus on technology enablers and collaborate with designers to develop social media applications.

Prof. Goutam Saha, Dean, IIT Kharagpur’s IP Law School, clarified on how the market can be penetrated as the concepts do not receive IP protection.

“A specific mobile app based game can be protected but not its concept or subject area. The way forward is to proactively work on user feedback and assess user needs to launch new products. The mass market products need to upgrade features continuously and be trendy with look and feel to capture popular imagination,” he said.

Could IIT Kharagpur play a key role in filling this void?

Director, Prof. Virendra Kumar Tewari believes the start-up ecosystem at IIT Kharagpur’s Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Park can lead the initiative through seed funding and incubation facility.

“We are contemplating on calling for submission of app development projects by students which we can sponsor. With the talent at institutes like IITs who power thes strongest corporations in the digital space, this is not only a certainty but not achieving this goal should come as a surprise.” 

He further opined on the necessity of hackathons at the national level engaging talents from technical institutions towards this end.

“Last year MHRD had successfully organized several hackathons in hardware, software, rural technology etc. We have proven track records in delivering efficient and economically viable technologies. Let us seize this opportunity.  The market has only been liberated, we can say, inward, this time,” signed off Prof. Tewari.

The Govt. of India too is encouraging premier technical institutions to take benefit of this opportunity and lead the way. Live Mint reported  on June 30, Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal, Hon’ble Minister, HRD while speaking on Atmanirbhar Bharat in his address for an academic address for IIT Madras urged all to accept the high challenge and rise to the occasion.

“Don’t let the opportunity go. This will take us forward in the path of growth, . . . We don’t need them…we have the vision to do it,” the minister said adding that when the challenges are high all must rise to the occasion,” he said.

What are students saying?

A section of students at IIT Kharagpur engaged in product designing and development are excited too. TYSS Santosh, UG representative had floated an informal assignment during the lockdown period to develop various applications related to COVID-19.

“Similar assignments can be conducted to encourage students to ideate new developments, he said as part of the co-curricular program. This can also be a real-life project based learning experience for students where we can witness the transition from lab to land,” he said.

By Shreyoshi Ghosh


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