Mobile Antakshari on Wall Street Journal - Livemint

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Mobile Antakshari on Wall Street Journal - Livemint

  1. 1. 12/3/11 Music and lyrics - Technology - livemint.com Enter Keyword SA T UR DA Y, DE CE MB E R 03, 2011 3:57 PM IST Livemint Home | e-Paper | Todays Newspaper | mint CODE Travel Technology Posted: Thu, Dec 30 2010. 9:02 PM IST Books Culture Music and lyrics It cost Hexolabs’ 10-member team six months, and around Rs30-40 lakh Style to create Mobile Antakshari Play Akshai Jain Slideshows Insider Parenting Livemint Home Videos Podcasts Mint Reports Blogs Mint on Facebook The song sounds familiar, but the words are 0 Webcast Archive 0 0 missing. The listener thinks for a minute, trying Like 3,869 Partners to fit lyrics to the tune; she decides to hazard a Wall Street Journal Like guess. Her voice quivers as she sings into her Tools cellphone; then, suddenly, a smile spreads across her face. The words are right. Mint Mobile RSS Feeds That’s one reward point earned. The hills have wi-fi mint e-paper A Tweet and a poke from the CEO Festival Contest The ultimate home office Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Facebook Growing wired up ADVERTISEMENT Mukherjee puts number to slowdo Finance minister sees economy expandin at over 7.5%; Kaushik Basu expects The prompt at the end of the line gives her a few seconds to recover before revival in the final quarter launching into the next song. The exercise is repeated with redoubled Coal ministry considers royalty sha enthusiasm. It makes for an odd sight; it also seems to be immense fun. The change relates to the way benefits a to be passed on to the local community In the crowded world of mobile phone apps, Mobile Antakshari stands out. The miners game, created by Hexolabs, a Chennai-based firm, is one of India’s most popular 2G scam | Delhi HC stays Chandoli apps, having attracted 110,000 customers within the first three months of its bail launch in May 2009. Justice V.K. Shali took the view that Chandolia’s release might have an “impa Since then the app’s user base has been growing at 10% every quarter. And the on... game is, clearly, addictive—approximately 40% of its players are repeat K.P. Singh | Gurgaon was envisage customers. Mobile Antakshari, says Vijay Shekhar Sharma, chairman of One97 as another Chandigarh Communications, one of India’s largest mobile value-added services (VAS) Real estate baron K.P. Singh speaks abo companies, is an “excellent incarnation of the game” and makes “optimum use of his dreams, property development and DLF’s debt resources”.www.livemint.com/2010/12/30210322/Music-and-lyrics.html 1/4
  2. 2. 12/3/11 Music and lyrics - Technology - livemint.com In a country where the Daniel Lalonde | Champagne wasn Internet user base is always a bubbly The president-CEO of Moët & Chandon sa growing sluggishly, even as heritage is the brand’s strongest suit the mobile user base has exploded, mobile apps may serve as the best bridge between the two. “In rural India, VAS and apps are fast taking the space of the Internet, access to which remains limited,” Sharma explains. “They’re easier to use, and they’re often Mass appeal: Raja Manohar, managing director of available in vernacular Hexolabs Interactive, which created Mobile Antakshari, at his Chennai office. M. languages.” The success of Lakshman/Mint Mobile Antakshari is only one of the cases in point. Incredible as it may sound, Mobile Antakshari happened largely by chance. It wasn’t what Raja Manohar, Hexolabs’ managing director, had in mind when he started his company in 2006, when he was still a student at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. At the time, Manohar had been focusing on creating educational apps, to help children spell or recognize prime numbers, for example. Those apps were successful, but only moderately; Manohar knew that he’d need to create an app with a much wider appeal. What that would be, he wasn’t sure. Then, one day, a maid working in the Hexolabs office asked Manohar what exactly was it that his firm did. This woman, who had studied till class V, spoke only a smattering of Tamil, and she needed her daughter’s help to make calls on her cellphone. Also Read The Future of the Internet (Complete Series) That blunt question set off a train of thought in Manohar’s mind. “Her only access to information seemed to be voice,” he says. “That’s when I realized that More videos Sites to reach out to the bulk of people, I’d need to venture into voice-based services.” Hindustan Times Most Read Most E-mailed Editors Picks Hindustan The choice, he claims, was narrow. Mass appeal in apps was limited to “astrology, Online Classifieds Bollywood and cricket”. Astrology was not quite his area of expertise, and he That Eighties show Fever 104 wasn’t clear what kind of cricket app he could create. Bollywood, though: that Discounts, new launches lift November Shine: Jobs in India might work. sales Movie Reviews ADVERTISEMENT An insomniac’s guide to photography Manohar recalls that it took a 10-member team—graduates of IIT and the Flying in the face of profitability National Institute of Design—5,500 lines of code, six months of work, and There’s more to a name than you know “between R 30 lakh and R 40 lakh” to create the app. Jet’s patent challenge against Virgin dismissed The heart of the game—the very first stumbling block—was the automatic What St Stephen’s means to me speech recognition (ASR) technology to decode the players’ voices. Licences for these advanced technologies were prohibitively expensive, so Hexolabs tied up with OnMobile to use one of its ASR technologies. Next came the “exhausting and funny” process of creating a database of songs for four languages—Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. Each language would have 1,500 songs, every one of which needed to have a “grammar” written for it, which would give the system points of comparison with what players were singing. The complexities only increased. “We’d noticed,” Manohar says, “that when players weren’t sure of the song, they’d start in a wavering, slightly husky voice.” The ASR would have to compensate for these vocal quirks. Then came the testing, for which, says Manohar, “friends and a few freelancers” were roped in. Mobile Antakshari can be played either against the computer or against friends. In the former, a player is presented with four modes of play. All four modes expect players to recognize a song and sing it back, although the clues in each differ. The mutliplayer mode, for “Antakshari Ustads”, allows players to key in the telephone numbers of their friends, inviting them to join in. These friends- turned-competitors now buzz in every time they recognize the song, to get first shot at singing the lyrics. Winners redeem their points for prizes such as callerwww.livemint.com/2010/12/30210322/Music-and-lyrics.html 2/4
  3. 3. 12/3/11 Music and lyrics - Technology - livemint.com tunes or more apps. The work on Mobile Antakshari continues apace. Every quarter, around 100-150 new songs are added in each language. A massive back-end system logs every single song a particular player has heard, so that songs aren’t repeated. The system also logs language preferences: A player who plays in Hindi three times is taken directly to the Hindi version the fourth time around. The success of the app, however, hasn’t translated into financial returns, which leaves Manohar a little bitter. “The irony in app development is that the creator gets 10% of the revenue while everyone else, including mobile service providers, get 90%,” he says. “There really isn’t very much money to be made from content.” Part of the problem, he thinks, is the fragmented nature of the Indian market. “In countries like the US, where handset markets are a lot more homogenous, it’s possible to survive by creating apps for phones like the iPhone,” he says. “But here, we have to customize apps for a range of handsets, a time-consuming and expensive process.” Sharma agrees that the initial marketing for any app is tricky, especially for small companies, but the initial struggle, he believes, will pay off. The silver lining for Hexolabs is that two more domestic mobile operators will soon offer Mobile Antakshari; operators in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Singapore have also shown interest, although song copyrights make those tie-ups more complicated. Manohar is cautious, but he agrees that Mobile Antakshari was a great learning experience. What kind of apps does Manohar see in the future? “I want to reach out to rural markets directly through healthcare and educational apps,” he says. It’s time, he thinks, to start singing a slightly different tune. akshai.j@livemint.com Tags - Find More Articles On: India Internet Mobile Antakshari Hexolabs Vijay Shekhar Sharma Bollywood Video story READ MORE ARTICLES BY: Akshai Jain Add New Comment Login Showing 2 comments Sort by newest first Rahul7star can i use my iphone to play this app 11 months ago Like Reply !"#$ %&, A pundit of "Computer and Communications Futu…www.livemint.com/2010/12/30210322/Music-and-lyrics.html 3/4
  4. 4. 12/3/11 Music and lyrics - Technology - livemint.com Go for an ad supported version which is free for end users just like Rovios Angry Birds for Android. If the above does not work, change what you do, finally it all boils down to the bottom line. 11 months ago Like Reply M Subscribe by email S RSS Reactions blog comments powered by DISQUS Subscribe Log In Contact Us Customer Service Privacy Policy Terms of Use Advertising About HT Media Browse Jobs Site Map Copyright © 2011 HT Media All Rights Reservedwww.livemint.com/2010/12/30210322/Music-and-lyrics.html 4/4

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