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Android and Google Play are blank canvases. Developers are the artists who paint on them.
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Android and Google Play are blank canvases. Developers are the artists who paint on them.

Many people might think of the Google Play Store when they want to download a new app. But the Google Play Store is much more than that: It creates revenue for small businesses and provides jobs for many employees at those businesses. Google Play connects developers with over 2.5 billion monthly active users around the globe, helping to generate over $120 billion in revenues for developers, to date.

Purnima Kochikar, Vice President, Google Play Partnerships

As part of an exclusive fireside chat, Purnima Kochikar, Vice President, Google Play Partnerships, sat down with Protocol to discuss how Google helps developers succeed by giving them the tools to turn ideas into apps, build an audience to receive those apps and get feedback needed to create the best possible app to change people’s lives.

What do you find most gratifying about your role overseeing all aspects of the Google Play app ecosystem?

We started as a very tiny team, and over the past 10 years that I’ve been at Google, we’ve generated over $120 billion in revenue for developers, many who are entrepreneurs or work at small businesses.

I have the best job in the world - it is a huge responsibility and incredibly humbling. It’s also inspirational to provide business and technical consulting to help developers build apps that change people’s lives.

Because we sit on a large platform, we can look at best practices and guide developers to the best tools and technologies. We also have generated 2.5 billion monthly active users, which creates a ready-made global audience for the amazing creativity of app developers.

I’ve always said that Android and Google Play are blank canvases, and developers are the artists who paint on them. I love seeing how developers turn ideas into reality.

What have you learned while leading the Google Play Store?

One of the most important things that I’ve learned is that imagination and creativity are not constrained to the places where we think they are. You always think about Silicon Valley. We think about New York. We think about London and the big cities. But our developers come from everywhere — most are also small businesses, like the brick-and-mortar companies you see in your town or neighborhood. You can have a great idea sitting in Nashville, Tennessee, or San Diego, or New York, or San Francisco. But when you offer those ideas through Google Play, you have a global audience waiting for you.

One of my favorite examples is GoNoodle, which is a small business in Nashville. A creative entrepreneur there saw joy when people get together and get healthy. Now, 95% of elementary schools in the U.S. use the app, which shares interesting ways for kids to get moving and focus on their health. This level of reach would have been unthinkable in the past, but now the app builder has the platform and distribution model to give all schools access to the app.

You mentioned developer creativity. Let’s talk about the role that creativity plays in the app development process.

Small businesses have amazing ideas. And they really understand their customers. They want to create truly amazing apps and really focus on their uses. But some stumble with the practical reality. We give developers the tools and technology to turn their creative ideas into apps that users can download and then use to change both their lives and their users’ lives.

One of the ways that we help small businesses succeed is Google Play Academy, which is a self-serve education platform. A developer anywhere in the world can access our videos, blogs and tips to understand how to both build and publish a great app. Because small companies don’t have lengthy testing times like bigger companies do, we also created the alpha-beta program where a developer can invite users to test their apps. We also provide tools and templates, such as pre-registration, to help generate an audience for their app before it’s even published.

The statistic that I’m most proud of is that in 2021, more than 2 million jobs existed in the United States, thanks to Android and Google Play. These aren’t jobs at Google, these are jobs that exist because developers grew their small businesses after publishing apps on the Play Store.

Many small businesses were hit especially hard during the pandemic – did you see any effects of that for the Google Play ecosystem?

During the past two years there has been a big debate between life and livelihood. A lot of people had to make a choice between the two. Those who could work from home didn’t have to make that hard choice because we could have both life and livelihood — and tech was the reason people could have both.

Mobile apps let small businesses digitize, pretty much overnight. We saw small restaurants use apps to make food delivery possible so people could stay home and order food. The apps helped them stay open and even created new jobs, especially in delivery. During the pandemic, most of the delivery apps in the Play Store hit 10-year KPIs – meaning that they saw engagement in just two years that most apps take 10 years to hit. It’s been truly fascinating — and truly humbling — to see what apps made possible in the middle of some of the worst times of our lives.

You’ve shared several differences in the apps and developers — location, size, ideas. Is there something that most apps have in common?

Each app developer truly focuses on a problem that’s near and dear to their heart, something that sparked their imagination, or something they feel deeply about. They each truly believe that they have a solution to make their community, their country, or the world better – and they aspire for their app to be used by a lot of people – they want to succeed.

Interestingly, most app developers with apps in the Play Store are actually small businesses, and they’re experiencing the benefits and challenges that come with starting out — even today’s big businesses started as small businesses.

People often ask me if they can succeed, because they don’t see other successful people who look like themselves. We need more women starting companies. We need more underrepresented groups starting companies. So, we are investing in this area. We want to make sure there are more people and companies like each of us on Google Play — so that the next kid who has a dream believes that they can be successful with their app.

I’m super excited about a program we launched in 2017 called Change the Game. Many people are surprised to learn that in 2020, 41% of people playing digital games were women. We still need more people to build apps for women. We want women and girls to know that they can create games, and so with Change the Game, we’re helping them build game apps – helping to support and empower women as game players and creators. We want to help developers succeed, and this is one of the many ways we are doing that.

When researching for this article, I was surprised that 97% of developers do not pay any fees to Google Play. What are some other things that people get wrong about Google?

Many people don’t realize the many ways developers benefit from Google Play and that the core DNA of Android is open. From the minute that developers get a creative idea, they have every tool they need to build the app, understand the security policies, launch the app and gain a global audience.

Another common misconception is that apps must be downloaded from a single location. But there are alternative app stores that are available on Android — and developers can distribute their apps through a website, meaning their creativity is not constrained. Developers have choices about where to distribute.

Most importantly, I truly want people to get to know the developers and the value that they're finding on Play. You can read their amazing stories on our We Are Play site. Take a few minutes and download their apps to see firsthand how they can help you change your own life.