Indus, the startup building an Android OS for India, targets deals with Chinese OEMs

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Indus OS, the startup developing a localized version of Android for India, is now going after international OEMs after it clinched a deal that will local giant Intex sell smartphones powered by its operating system.

Intex has around 10 percent of sales in India, according to data from Counterpoint Research, so landing the firm as a partner will boost Indus’ coverage of India’s mobile landscape. The partnership also means that Indus has now struck deals with nearly all of India’s top phone brands — including Micromax, Karbonn, Celkon and Swipe but not Lava — meaning it can now focus its attention to the many overseas firms vying for marketshare in India, one of the few regions to buck the global trend of slowing phone sales.

“Our goal is to get OEMs to sign up,” Rakesh Deshmukh, Indus OS co-founder and CEO, told TechCrunch. “Now we want to go ahead and work with Chinese and international brands.”

India’s smartphone market reached a record high in the recent Q3 2016, according to Counterpoint, with shipments growing 23 percent year-on-year. Samsung, Lenovo and Xiaomi were among the top five smartphone brands based on marketshare, but plenty of other overseas brand are battling to take a slice of the nascent market.

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Android accounts for 88 percent of all smartphones sold in India, which is where Indus OS sees its opportunity. The startup has retooled the Google-owned operating platform to give localized features — which include translation/keyboards for India’s numerous languages, a simpler user interface, free messaging, and localized apps — which it believes are key to developing smartphones that can be used by the next wave of less-savvy, first-time smartphone owners.

Indus OS closed a $5 million Series A funding round earlier this year, and Deshmukh hinted that it could add to that soon.

“We’re not raising right now but are down the line having some discussions,” he said. “Let’s see how it goes [there’s] no immediate plan [but] investors are approaching us because the company is doing well.”