Recently came across this post at Mashable (thanks Vaibhav for point this out to me) that exposes how Meravideo.com is a rip-off of a $300 product from some software company. And if you haven’t read before, they recently claimed to be close to closing a round of funding worth $1.5 million. The interesting thing that I wanted to discuss here is whether this is a joke (how can you launch a company by buying an off the shelf product and get funded!) or a sign of a boom time (when you can convince investors that doing your laundry online is the next ground-breaking innovative idea to be implemented as a web service).
I tried to contact Meravideo to get the real scoop, but there has not been a response so far (rather I did get a response that they would love to chat about this, but haven’t heard back since then). Personally, I think India is not really ready for video right now (I might be wrong, but I would not invest my time/money in doing this type of thing considering the Internet and more importantly broadband penetration and the online ad market, more details here). I know that a simple strategy is to build up a large user base and get acquired by a big company, but then again, would any big company be interested in acquiring such a site that is full of mostly sleazy bollywood videos?
What if you still want to play and try your luck?
Now just playing a bit of devil’s advocate: I do not think that this is a joke as Pete Cashmore of Mashable thinks, I just think this is more a sign of boom time. But lets say you ignore all the reality and are convinced that you can build a large monetizable user base in a short time. What would you do in this type of case when you are just trying to copy a web2.0 idea from the US market and do it for Indian markets. I think instead of building the technology from ground-up, you might as well focus on more important aspects such as marketing and trying to attract more users and innovating ways to get users to generate more and more content on your site, compared to others. The main idea is anyways validated in the original concept, the most innovation that is required in Indian Internet (Web2.0) companies I think is how to get users to come to your site and spend maximum time there and generate content for you (for example, I believe Meravideo is going to try revenue-sharing for attracting users to submit videos). So what’s wrong with the approach of taking an existing product and building on top of it? Think about this - what is the barrier to entry for other players in such a venture? Its not the idea, its not the technology (these are copied anyway from a model that has already worked bigtime). But if there is already a player who has strong foothold (in a small market) - thats a real barrier. After all an investor is much less interested in how you build the UI or the technology, and more interested in the fact that you are able to show them that there is a considerable market and you are successful in acquiring a large chunk of it.
Where I am going with this? The point I am trying to make is twofold:
- If the news is really true, to me this is a sign of boom that such sites are getting funded.
- If you are trying to catch on to the boom to kind of just try your luck, it may not be a bad idea to start with some thing existing and add features suiting to the targeted demographics and more importantly focusing on trying out new business models and marketing gimmicks to attract users and spend more time on your site. Of course you can do slightly better by not being as blatant and changing the skin a bit so as to not look as conspicuous, for example like ApnaTube. If you look closely, do you really think they are any different?