03/25/2012 06:00 EDT | Updated 05/25/2012 05:12 EDT

Calgary-based app maker Poynt looks to India, China for growth

TORONTO - Having established itself as a popular and handy app for millions of mobile users in North America and elsewhere, Calgary-based Poynt is now focusing its efforts on the massive markets of India and China.

Poynt, available on a wide variety of Apple, Google Android, Microsoft Windows, Nokia and Research in Motion phones and tablets, is a local search app that uses a device's GPS locator to direct users to nearby businesses, bars, gas stations and restaurants.

This week, it also launched a new feature for Canadians that lets users compare prices at local gas stations.

With 14.5 million users, the company has come a long way since its launch in 2002, when phones couldn't keep up with developers' ideas for the app.

"Phones were way too dumb back then," says Poynt CEO Andrew Osis.

"The idea was to put the Yellow Pages in your phone so you could find what you needed, when you needed it, where you needed it.

"'From inspiration to action' is our tagline."

Poynt operates in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia and recently launched in India. The plan is to launch in China later this year.

"They've got a couple of people," Osis jokes when asked about the company's reasons for entering the Chinese market.

"It's the largest cellphone market in the world, is really the short answer.... Certainly that market is going to be hotly contested in the future — they're expecting to have 230- to 250-million smartphones by the end of 2012 — and that's a significant userbase, no matter how you slice it."

The Poynt app in China will represent a slightly different strategy for the company, which typically focuses on advertising as its source of revenue in other markets.

"We (usually) try to deliver a highly relevant experience that you're looking for, and (also) some kind of ad that provokes a relevant message," he explains.

"China will be more along the lines of subscription or transaction fees or usage fees, just because of the differences of that marketplace. (Fees are) a more accepted kind of thing and certainly the product is going to look a little different there than it does here."

While Poynt competes against several apps that have similar functionality, especially on Apple's crowded App Store, Osis says few others have all the functionality that his app offers all in one place.

He's also hoping some recent deals with handset manufacturers will push Poynt's user count much higher. In December, Poynt announced that it signed a deal with Samsung to have its app preloaded on phones and tablets, including the popular Galaxy S II and Galaxy Tab 10.1. A similar deal was struck with Nokia for India.