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App-y Moms

Honey, I’ve apped the kids

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MOTHER LODE: Rashmi Sachan's company, Fliplog, has created over a hundred apps in two years. (Below) 'Giddy Ghost and Whimsical Witch' is the best-selling app from the startup Pixelmat

Young mothers are turning out to be some of the smartest and most intuitive app developers.

When her daughters were three and five, Rashmi Sachan and her husband Brij Singh bought an iPad. Sachan noticed how much the children loved messing around with the sleek gadget and was struck by its immense possibilities as a learning tool. That's how she became an app developer.

Her first project was a book app that digitised stories by Indian children's book publishers such as Pratham Books and Tulika. She made the stories downloadable and embedded them with sound in different languages. "The response was great, " says Sachan. "The kind of global reach the app reached was mind-boggling. That experiment eventually grew into our company, Fliplog, and it's been a fun ride. "
In two years, Fliplog has developed over a hundred apps in touch platforms covering iOS, Android and Intel. The apps, downloaded more than a million times in 40 countries, range from those in the preschool and elementary school category to the K-12 category (primary and secondary education in the US) and career guide apps for college students.

While the Indian technology sector tends to be somewhat male-dominated, the world of app development is proving to be more egalitarian. Whether it's because of the versatility of the app platforms or their ability to lend themselves to various creative applications, the fact is that many women developers are now creating apps. While some seem to gravitate towards child- and family-friendly apps, quite a few are also building more mainstream ones.

In February this year, Microsoft India, along with start-up resource YourStory. in, organised a technology event at one of Microsoft's offices in Bangalore. It was India's first app-development workshop for women, and was attended by more than 50 female tech entrepreneurs. "The app market provides a great opportunity to Indian women with the requisite skills to work on their own time to build something creative. Technology is truly enabling them to reach out to a global market, and there has been a fundamental shift in thinking over the past three to four years that has led women to reinvent themselves as tech entrepreneurs," says Shradha Sharma, founder, YourStory. in.

California-based Shipra Mittal decided to create a kid-friendly app for the Ramayana. A mother of two who worked as an autism specialist before quitting six months ago, Mittal wants to "pursue my passion which is to make our stories, folk tales from India available to kids all over the world, " she says in a guest post on the blog karmickids. blogspot. in. "It all began with my son's Diwali project last year. As I tried looking for the story regarding the significance of the festival and how it originated from our Hindu epic Ramayana, I realised I could not find anything that could relate the incidents to a class of students who belonged to different cultural backgrounds and ethnicity. " A few days later, her elder son showed her a Peter Pan story on his iPad and asked her to write "that Ram story" the same way. Soon, Mittal had created her first iPad app, Ramayana Children's Book.

Incredibly, Mittal didn't have a background in coding and learnt everything from scratch with the help of online tutorials and by "picking the brains of several friends". "The process involved understanding the role of an illustrator, interface designer, voice artist, music composer etc, " says Mittal in an email interview. The next app she's releasing in October is a children's story 'Fearless Frogs: Lesson of Hope Next', after which she means to take on stories from the Mahabharata and the life of Buddha.

Srividya Vaidyanathan feels female developers, especially moms, bring special skills and insight into app development that male developers might not have. "Mothers know children and can help design kiddie apps in a way that the child can appreciate better. The same holds good for other categories such as lifestyle, home, and garden. Moms are mostly the purchase decision-makers for kids and family apps. They are in a better position to provide endcustomer insights.

When women bring such an insight into app development they make successful apps, " says Srividya, whose start-up Pixelmat took off after she purchased an iPad as a family entertainment device in 2011. Her five-year-old son took an instant liking to it and was able to navigate it without much help, unlike a regular PC/laptop. The apps that interested her were stories that could teach young children educational concepts while playing a game. Pixelmat has developed more than 10 apps for platforms like Windows Phone, iPad and Android Tablet. Their best-selling app is the 'Giddy Ghost and Whimsical Witch', an interactive adventure about a bumbling ghost and his friendship with a newly minted witch. The Dutch version of this app has been the No. 1 selling iPad Book App in the Netherlands iTunes Store. "Giddy Ghost is special because it had three women who contributed in key areas: Julia Sokolenko is an artist from Uruguay who did the original artwork;Brooke Pierce is a voice artist from USA who did the voiceover and I did the co-ordination from India, " says Srividya. "During the course of my experience I have learnt that women are dedicated, open to revision requests and very hardworking. " Software development experience and the ability to reach out, co-ordinate and work with global talent are the skills women need to build and market successful apps, feels Srividya.

Not all female app-developers are into creative and storytelling apps. Niranjana Balasundaram, a mother of one who took a break from a high-flying career in the semi-conductor industry, took to developing apps because she wanted to spend more time with her daughter. "One of my co-workers introduced me to mobile app development, " she says. "He said with my data structures and algorithm skills, and experience in software development, it should not be a problem to transition over. He also pointed out how app development opens up working from home, and being an independent consultant. I just jumped at it. " Balasundaram, co-founder of Zeta Soft Inc, is primarily interested in healthcare, consumer and enterprise apps that rely on Cloud computing. She has developed an events and cinema iPad app for Chennai, an app for local business in the US and an app on Enrique Pena Nieto, the current Mexican president (her client was a supporter of the president who commissioned her to build it).

Niranjana develops apps for her clients, where the idea is theirs, and the implementation is hers, and is now getting into Enterprise apps herself. "The app market allows anyone with an idea or a need to connect with a large customer base to go out there with little barriers. There are tons of businesses out there which offer great services, information, care and connect to consumers and apps are a great way to experience that, " says Sairee Chahal, founder of the women's networking platform Fleximoms. in.

As a career or work of choice, app development is very workflex friendly, feels Chahal. "I really think women in India should invest in enhancing their high-end skills and align themselves to front-end consumer technologies, " she adds.

Stay at the forefront, don't undersell yourself and follow the tech universe closely, is her advice.

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