Four years ago, when Jigar Doshi returned from the US, he realised his monthly phone bill was around Rs 3,000 — more than what he paid in US, where rates are significantly higher.
Perturbed by the disparity, Doshi started planning an android app which could track voice calls and messages from a phone and use the data to suggest the best available plan in the market and save you money. He joined hands with Ankit Chhajer to develop Planhound.
The app today has over a million monthly users and plans are to reach 10 million users.
This is one example of how a few Indian startups have created apps to help users choose the right plan and reduce their phone and utility bills.
The inspiration for Planhound came from the US website Billshrink.com, which helps users find the best wireless plans, television services and credit cards rates, reveals co-founder Ankit Chhajer.
The app detects all connections a user owns — across mobile, Internet (wired and wireless), landline and DTH — even if they are not recharged through its app or website.
“It does this automatically without any user input,” Chhajer says. “It gives a user live balances of each connection. It can also unify all connections owned by a family in the cloud if Planhound is installed on their respective devices.”
Planhound alerts users at the right time to renew their mobile packs, buy top-ups, recharge DTH connection or pay post-paid bill.
The firm now plans to extend their services to utility services such as electricity.
Chhajer says the app puts a disclaimer that if there are deviations in data usage, the users have to check with the operator for accuracy.
Planhound is not the only player in this segment.
Mubble, backed by Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani, helps smartphone users track and control their telecom spends and mobile data usage.
The app was developed in 2013 by IITians Ashwin Ramaswamy, Pranav Jha and Raghvendra Varma.
“Mubble brings unprecedented transparency and empowerment to the smartphone user by democratizing technology and solving key problems of smartphone adopters across India,” says Mr Nilekani.
The Mubble app has clocked a million downloads in less than six months. It is designed to work offline, thereby conserving precious mobile data. It is available in multiple Indian languages and almost half the users access it in their mothertongue, the company said. “Mubble is not only made in India, it is truly made for India,” says Mr Ramaswamy.
Mr Nilekani says providing support and funding to this initiative was a part of his ethos and inherent belief about the power of a digital India.
Another app, Simply, allows users to monitor their spending on prepaid mobile connections, call patterns and frauds.
The app was developed by Shabaz Ahmed, a graduate from the M S Ramaiah Institute of Technology, during a hackathon this year. He is working to commercialise the app. Ahmed has the backing from Michael Jones, a former chief executive of MySpace, one of the earliest social networking sites, through his venture capital fund called ‘Science India Fund’.
The Fund supports early start-ups focused on building mobile phone applications.
Earlier this month, FreeCharge launched gas bill payment service on its Android app and website. FreeCharge is associated with five major gas pipeline providers including Mahanagar Gas, Indraprasth Gas, Gujarat Gas Company, GSPC Gas Company and Adani Gas. The service is available in Delhi, Mumbai and Gujarat.
“We aim is to convert all the mundane transactions that customers have to do into a rewarding experience,” says Kunal Shah, chief executive officer at FreeCharge. He says the aim is to bring about a behavioural change by organizing the bill payments market in India.
The company has further strengthened its online utility bill payment category by adding electricity and landline bill payment services.
The facility is available across major cities and regions including Jodhpur, Jaipur, Assam, Tripura and Chhattisgarh.