The New App Map
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In Udupi and Indore, Bikaner and Sonepat, software firms are fashioning new apps for smartphones and mobiles and minting money along the way. Walk into the small-town app store
On the outskirts of the temple town of Udupi, next to a crummy old theatre, a sunlit block of steel and glass beckons us to stop. A vigorous security check separates the outsider from the imposing cylinder, five stories high, with a curious dry moat skirting its sides. But it is by no means the only thing that sets the building apart from the heat and dust of small-town India. This is the unlikely home of Robosoft, a mobile app development company with a cache of games and utility applications that have mustered tens of millions of downloads on Apple's app store. One of its iPhone mainstays, a photo filter application named Camera Plus, has been downloaded 20 million times the world over, the paid version raking in over a million downloads. Other applications it has built for media houses and various businesses have consistently topped the charts, making Robosoft one of only a handful of companies in India with smartphone smarts.
The company is located in a dusty suburb in New Udupi called Santhekatte, which roughly translates to "a village marketplace". However, its 350 employees — programmers, game designers, architects, artists, animators, testers, managers and technicians — are helping build products for a newer marketplace. They work in cubicles set in large wings named after the rivers of the world, surrounded by inspirational quotes from the late Steve Jobs and app download counters that they anxiously reset every now and then. Big shiny Macs, iPads brimming with ever-new apps, and cerebral conversations about how best to play God of War inoculate them against the slowness of Udupi.
"When we acquired eight acres of land here and started building in the mid-2000s, I wanted the glass front so we could give our employees the feeling of working in a Bangalore tech park," says Rohith Bhat, the unassuming 40-year-old founder, MD and CEO of Robosoft. If it weren't for its orange passageways and old-world washrooms, the building could pass for an office block in a metro. "From Santhekatte to San Francisco, where one of our products (Boom, a volume booster app for the Mac platform) won the Macworld 2011 Best of Show Award, we have come a long way. That's our pitch to students when we visit colleges for recruitment," Bhat says.