As Xiaomi plans to leg up its India growth story by focusing on the next billion first-time smartphone users, it is launching a plethora of 'Indianised' features in its phones. One main feature will be its Indian language keyboard and selfie stickers provided by Gurgaon-based startup Bobble. "We're launching a new keyboard, which is exclusively for Xiaomi phones, which is being designed keeping in mind the real India," said Ankit Prasad, Co-founder and CEO, Bobble AI.
Without disclosing more details, he added, "It will be still the keyboard but its use cases will be very different, something like a shirt company has formal shirts, informal shirts, beach shirts etc." The keyboard is the interface that lets a user communicate with the smartphone. Most are designed for English speakers. As more and more native speakers come online, there is need to customise the input software platform as per the needs of the non-English speaking population.
Bobble has similar partnerships with home grown handset maker Lava and tech giants such as Baidu and Foxconn. Currently, five million users access the keyboard daily. It is available in 22 Indian languages and six dialects. Prasad said they have a revenue sharing model with Xiaomi where the profit earned from the keyboard will be shared by the two firms. This is done through branded stickers and GIFs. Bobble has worked with IPL, Adidas and Zomato in recent times. "Stickers is a clean way to enter Whatsapp which otherwise doesn't allow any ads," he says.
Other than text, voice and images are other 'inputs' that can be used to give a command to a smart device. Bobble has recently launched a commerce camera which will allow users to take photo from their keyboard on the go. This will then take them directly to the e-tailers icon on the keyboard to purchase the product. "Beauty of these inputs from the keyboard is that they have the best understanding of the end users. This is because keyboard is common across all apps, whether it is a messaging app, a shopping app, food delivery app etc. This gives the best access to data and hence, the best access to the user behaviour," says Prasad.
The humble keyboard has suddenly gained traction amongst technology companies. Flipkart last year acquired start-up Liv.AI which has a platform that converts speech to text in 10 Indian languages. Reliance Industries acquired Bengaluru-based local language technology startup Reverie Technologies. Last year, Samsung too acquired Kngine, an Egyptian artificial intelligence startup. In April 2019, PhonePe launched its PhonePe Keyboard that allowed users to pay and request money and explore the app directly from the keyboard.