India's Twitter SMS GupShup Gets An App Store

Fresh off a $12 million investment, SMS GupShup, a Twitter-like service in India that is primarily accessed via SMS, is launching an App Store. The store aims to expand SMS GupShup’s ecosystem by allowing developers to create SMS-based mobile applications based off of the microblogging service.

Launched in April 2007, SMS GupShup (spawned from Webaroo) serves 26 million users across India. The startup has seen rapid growth in users primarily due to the immense popularity of mobile devices in India. According to the startup, there are 550 million mobile phone users in the country and only 50 million web users. With a 10 to 1 mobile-to-PC ratio and SMS serving as the most popular communications platform, the market is ripe for SMS GupShup to take off. SMS GupShup currently processes over 480 million messages a month and accounts for 5 percent of all texts sent within India.

Called AppShup, the app store allows developers to use the platform’s API to create and connect their apps to the GupShup stream, allowing developers make small SMS applications and widgets. App Shup pre-enables carrier approval processes, hoping to make the process of submitting apps easier for developers. Currently, AppShup is integrated with the Indian carriers – allowing SMS services for Indian mobile subscribers. The startup says they are conducting discussions with carriers in other countries to expand the program. Close to 100 SMS apps are already available including Tic Tac Toe, Cricket Quiz, and Word Jumble. For now, most of the apps appear to be free.

Releasing an API and launching an App Store makes sense for SMS GupShup. The mobile social network has been growing fast and developing an ecosystem around its platform is the next step for development. The startup has even attracted the attention of leaders in the space, like Facebook. Last year, Facebook partnered with SMS GupShup to power and deliver its users’ status updates via text messages. Additionally, SMS GupShup has an advertising strategy. Over 100 advertisers currently run on the network including local insurance provider ICICI Lombard and international brands like Puma, Microsoft and Cadbury.

India is a huge market for social networks, with Facebook, Orkut and even Twitter vying for a share of the growing number of web users who are increasingly flocking to social networks in their day-to-day routines. But clearly, SMS GupShup has tapped into the mobile side of social networks and is seeing success from this in India. It should be interesting to see if the service can develop the vibrant ecosystem Twitter has produced with its third party apps and API.