Posts filed under web2.0

TringMe.com – convergence calling?

Written by: Abhinav

On Mar 30th, 2008

We spoke to Yusuf Motiwala from TringMe.com recently. The conversation covered various aspects including the technology involved, the revenue model, funding and staffing.

iLeher: How did TringMe come about?
Yusuf: We were looking to build a Voice 2.0 platform. This was the TringSwitch that we were planning to push to enterprises so that they could support all types of voice terminations – SIP, Mobiles, VoIP, IM (Jabber), etc. When we built this, we came up with TringMe as a way to demonstrate this platform that we had built and thats how TringMe came about. Then we got covered by TechCrunch and the site took off

iLeher: So how many users do you have now?
Yusuf: 60,000+ plus.

iLeher: Cool!
Yusuf: Yes, we are already generating revenues as well. A lot of these users pay to use the site.

iLeher: That brings us to our next question. Whats the revenue model that you are envisioning? Mostly the Skype-like Call In/Out kind of model?
Yusuf: Not at all. Like I already mentioned, we built a platform that we could sell to enterprises. That remains a revenue model we are going after.

iLeher: So you basically install the boxes in enterprise networks?
Yusuf: Not necessarily. We are also looking at Hosted Services where the enterprise need not spend extra on installing the box. We can take care of the back-end for them. In addition to this, we are looking at licensing our technology to different websites where a real-time interaction between different parties makes sense.

iLeher: Such as?
Yusuf: Dating, travel, reservations (for hotels, travel, etc). There are lots of areas one can think of.

iLeher: Alright. Any other revenue model?
Yusuf: Yes, we are also looking at partnering with developers who have ideas and are looking to build on top of this platform. We will provide them with SDKs which they can use to build their apps.

iLeher: So do you charge them for it?
Yusuf: Depends on the company. We could do a cash deal or take equity. Depends. We absolutely reserve the right to partner in these cases. We will evaluate the company and only then partner with them. Having said that, if we believe in the company, we will see how we can work with them.

iLeher: So what is next on the horizon as far as TringMe is concerned?
Yusuf: We have just announced a mobile solution for low cost handsets. You can check out the announcement on the blog. Our blog has a lot of information about our various offerings- what all we support, etc.

iLeher: Yes, coming to that. You support a lot of terminations. What is your team size and how long did you take?
Yusuf: We are about 9 people

iLeher: Thats all?
Yusuf: Yes, we started around May-June last year. I started the company and then slowly the team grew to its current size

iLeher: Thats a lot of work for this short a time and this small a team!
Yusuf: Well, we have a lot of experience in this field and we were able to apply it to get things working.

iLeher: How about money?
Yusuf: We are self-financed at the moment. Friends and family besides our own money.

iLeher: So are you planning to bootstrap your way to an IPO?
Yusuf: We will go in for a round of VC funding at some stage. We will let you know as and when that happens. 😉

iLeher: Thanks a lot for talking to us
Yusuf: My pleasure!

We spoke to a Yusuf about a few other things which are already covered on the TringMe blog. Please hop over after leaving your comments here.

We wish TringMe all the very best for the future.

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Revisiting some old favorite topics – eCommerce and web2.0

Written by: Madhur

On Feb 11th, 2008

Yes I know, things have been slow at iLeher for some time. As Vivek pointed out earlier, the team members have been busy individually in their own stuff. Anyways,`I wanted to assure our audience that we are not fading away. The Internet activity in Indian space is as buzzing as ever. I was catching up on my reading and came across a couple of interesting thought-provoking posts by industry experts.

Darpan Munjal has this great post on ecommerce in India, where he talks about what are the gaps that need to be filled and what it might take to create a successful business in online commerce. I completely agree with him on all the points, and believe that starting an eCommerce venture is going to be much more challenging in India. It involves proving the audience about the value of online shopping, which of course can only happen if some one can execute on the points that the post talks about – not an easy ask. I have my own personal doubts on whether we have the critical online mass for that in India right now. But that doesn’t mean that now is not the right time to venture into ecommerce. I am sure there exists a model that will fit the Indian market and to get that model right, now is probably the best time to start, falter, learn, evolve and get the early mover advantage. What are your thoughts? When will we see an Amazon in India?

Anurag Gupta ponders on the much talked about web 2.0 brands in India. Whether Indian firms can compete with the global biggies. Do we have the resources, talent, mindset to come up with offerings that can pull users and make money. All I have to say on this is that web2.0 is just fancy term for a combination of some web technologies and business models that leverage the power of community. If there is a compelling online service that solves a problem or adds value (e.g. travel, matri, job sites) or even just lot of fun (e.g. orkut) to customers’ online experience, we can do just as good a job as any global biggie. Now whether a new site can start making money or not is a different question. If you ask me, if its pure advertising based model, I’d not bet my money on it today, but online advertising market is surely evolving. On the other hand, this presents an opportunity to invent new business models to leverage the online traffic maybe by adding subscription based premium services, sending leads to transaction oriented sites such as ticketing, online shopping etc.

On a side note, do you think Reliance Entertainment is worth $3 billion ?!

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A social approach for protecting privacy

Written by: Madhur

On Sep 9th, 2007

Here is an interview submitted by one of our readers Ullas Sankhla. He talked with the founders of BanKaro, a recently launched social mobile spam filtering service. BanKaro is trying to build a community of trusted individuals for sharing phone numbers of unsolicited marketing callers. The service has just launched, so it remains to be seen how successful they are in actually realizing the idea. The most interesting part is to see if really there are ways to get users to pay for using the service (in the interview, the founders claim that their informal tracking of the market tells them that people are ready to pay). We are featuring them here as this looks like an interesting idea and from what I’ve seen, a first of its kind in the Indian market. If the idea flies and they are able to build a community of active users, it should be easy for them to include features for sharing more stuff like registration information for sites, coupon codes, etc. A similar site that comes to mind (outside the Indian market) is bugmenot.com.
Read on below to find out what BanKaro is all about and their plans. As always, comments/questions are welcome.

What is Ban Karo?
Ban Karo is a social network-driven approach to solving the telemarketing problem. It ensures that mobile phone users have enough information to know whether an incoming call is a telemarketing one or not.

Why Ban Karo?
Ban Karo started as a response to what we believed was a crushing productivity issue, in that literally thousands of man-hours are lost on a daily basis by answering these pointless telemarketing calls. We realized that simply individually storing these numbers will not help, as very few people actually get repeat calls from the same number. It was this that drove us to the insight that telemarketing is a social problem, and hence, is best tackled socially. To put it simply, we wanted to devise a mechanism which attacks the cost structure of the telemarketing operators, thus pushing them into shaping their outreach services into a more customer-friendly.

What do you think of the Indian government’s DNC initiative?
First of all, we believe the Indian consumer has become much more conscious and protective of her personal privacy. We seem to have reached an inflexion point in the market, where additional breaches of privacy by marketers would be deemed as harassment. Having said that, the government’s initiative, though noble, suffers from a lot of inherent flaws. At the first instance, the end-user has to register with the mobile service operators, who will take at least 45 days to validate the registration. Secondly, and more importantly, the DNC registry allows marketers to call up the end-user if there is an existing business relationship between them. This loophole can be stretched to cover all marketing efforts, especially the ones we are normally plagued by such as credit card solicitation, insurance policy solicitation, etc. We believe, on the whole that the DNC registry is a great initiative, and we would be willing to exist as a complementary service in order to do what’s best for our customers.

When did you guys decide to start up? Who are the founders?
Ban Karo consists of Anshuman Mishra, Lalit Mangal, and Sumit Jain. Lalit and Sumit are from IIT Roorkee, and Anshuman is from IIT Kharagpur. All three of us were previously working for the same company. The idea for launching Ban Karo occurred in early July, after we had left our “secure” jobs. We realized we were in the right frame of mind for venturing forth on our own and launching a startup focused on the Indian market. But, as is common in such cases, it took a while for us to figure out the shape of the problem we should be tackling. Once we realized we had the technical expertise to launch something like this on our own, it was fairly plain sailing.

How are you funded?
We are a bootstrapped startup, and are currently coasting on our savings.

How are you planning to make money off the service?
Our informal tracking of the market has led us to the conclusion that people are willing to pay for the service in order to gain from its effective approach against telemarketing calls.

How will you attract end-users to your service?
Ban Karo, being social network-based, is growing in a totally viral manner. In order to seed the network, though, we have recently launched a feature by which one can directly request an invite to join, and if validated, will be issued one. This
allows Ban Karo to grow in a quasi-organic fashion from multiple nuclei.

What are your plans for the future?
We believe social networks represent a powerful tool in tackling various problems across domains, be they telemarketing, consumer information aggregation, finance, or even education. In the future, we foresee our company mapping out various solutions to these problems, from our experience with the Ban Karo service.

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Indiatimes’ push into personalized home page

Written by: Neeraj

On Aug 14th, 2007

Do we see Indian portals opening up? And trying to cater not only to masses but also to niches?

A personalized home page, according to me, helps us consume the content we are most interested in, at one place. It also enables us to decide the way our stuff gets displayed. Most importantly, we can add content from multiple publishers and blogs.

Indiatimes launched its personalized home page with my.indiatimes.com today (beta version). This is the first such offering from any Indian portal. my.indiatimes.com is a way to customize content from Indiatimes and from around the web. You can drag and drop the boxes, delete content, add whatever you prefer from any site. It requires you to sign in with your Indiatimes id. As far as content goes, I see quite a limited set of content right now. However, the ease of use and functionality is quite neat. There is no clutter and it is easy to add and delete stuff. I am sure content feeds and widgets would be ramped up soon enough.

My Indiatimes

This is an encouraging move from a publisher which is trying to go content neutral by providing content feeds from the likes of Hindu, BBC, CNN and Newsweek. Under each content category there is a clear distinction between Indiatimes content and other content from around the web. It will be interesting to see the adoption pattern of such a site in India. I would like the audience to share their views on what they want the most from a personalized home page. And yes, there are no advertisements on my.indiatimes.com (yet!)

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India Internet – status check

Written by: Madhur

On Jul 17th, 2007

comScore recently came out with a report on the Indian Internet industry. Here are some of my observations and thoughts:

Search engines – One of the popular category of sites. This category pretty much reflects the global trends in terms of the popularity of search engines. (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Ask). The interesting thing to note here is that there is no Indian company in the list. Given the variety of different cultures and languages in India, one might think local players might have an edge if they really tried. Currently though, most of the Internet population is English, but this is certainly going to change as the penetration increases. If Chinese search engine Baidu is anything to go by, there is certainly room for a local player in India too. And hey, its not like no one is trying. But frankly, other than Guruji, no one seems to be anywhere close to the standards of the big global players. We have talked about Guruji here and here, let’s see how they progress in the coming years.

Portal/Services – A popular category from the Web 1.0 era. The sites in this category either have day-to-day utility or entertainment value. Lot of early local players here from the 90’s, yet only a few established ones. Google, Yahoo, MSN are again the big players, although the good news here is that there are at least a handful local players in the sector.
news/entertainment/communication – rediff, timesnetwork and sify – decent content but poor user experience (broken links, popup ads, flashy ads)
classifieds – This is one category which has achieved the best success rate as far as the local players are concerned. One of the reasons is the demographics that is online in India and the fact that these players jumped on to the opportunity quite early in the game and more importantly stuck it out at the time of dotcome burst. Naukri, Shaadi, Bharatmatrimony, etc. are a few examples. A few promising sites in this space – mapmyindia (maps and directions), onyomo (local yellow page listings)

Social networking / web2.0 – A rapidly growing category. Very few decent Indian sites. Mostly dominated by the likes of Orkut, Facebook, Youtube etc. Again this is a category where one would think a local player can gain an edge as they would presumably understand the sensibilities of the youth better. Like I mentioned above, once English ceases to remain the predominant language on the web, more possibilities will open up. A few promising startups in this space – Minglebox, burrp.

Ecommerce – My personal favorite but not a popular category in India yet. We really need to catch up here if Internet has to sustain. The reason is simple – the most popular business model on the Internet is advertisments and for ads you need companies who are ready to advertise in the first place. Yes offline companies do want to advertise online, but there is only so much they will do. Real spending will come only from ecommerce players as they can directly affect the sales/branding using this form of advertising. We are seeing growth in this category. Check out some good articles on this space at Darpan Munjal’s blog. Travel is definitely a hot sector which already has a bunch of players (makemytrip, yatra, travelguru, cleartrip etc.) followed by entertainment (seventymm). The next big sector is retail which is currently dominated by Ebay India, but definitely expect to see some action here. IndiaPlaza.in and Futurebazaar are upcoming players. Remains to be seen who will emerge out as the Amazon of India (how about Amazon India itself?)

While on this topic, you might want to check out an interesting discussion here about why Indian companies are lagging behind global players (as opposed to Chinese, Korean, European markets). You can read the complete article for details, but the summary is that dominance of English language and poor user experience of Indian sites are the two main reasons.

Conclusion
India Internet has come a long way just in the last 3-4 years, but I think we are still in early stages. It might still take some time to reach the maturity level of more developed markets. To me, it looks more like the pre-bubble period (’97-98) of the US market. A lot of investment is happening, user base is increasing, new companies are coming up – things seem to be moving in the right direction. What are your thoughts?

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What are they doing to attract customers?

Written by: Madhur

On Jan 3rd, 2007

One of the most common answers that I get on asking new startups about their marketing plans is that they are focusing on providing the best user experience and then rely on word of mouth. I beg to differ here. Agreed – awesome user experience accompanied with word of mouth is quite effective, but I think that some clever marketing can give a non-trivial boost to the traffic, more so for startups in the consumer Internet space. If you have big budget, the obvious way is to spend tons of money to make regular splashes all over the media or give away freebies to attract customers or even give big ticket lotteries (this is not unreal by the way). But on the other hand, even some low budget clever ideas can be very effective in driving significant traffic to the site. Let’s take a look at some of the Indian Internet companies to see what they are doing to attract customers. Also presented are tips on how other companies can use some of these techniques:

Traditional media marketing: Air commercials on televisions, billboards, etc. This is of course an expensive way to spread the word. While the reach of such media is huge, the problem is that it is difficult to measure how many customers you have acquired directly because of these campaigns. As a result, only big companies with lots of money can use this technique. For example: media portal Yahoo.in, travel portals MakeMyTrip, Cleartrip, Yatra and job portals Naurki, Monster, IndiaTimes Jobs have commercials on different TV channels and billboards in big cities.

Referral marketing: This is a scheme where you give additional incentive to already existing customers to do referral for your product/company. This is a proven model and the success comes with a cost – the referral reward. Some of the companies that are using this scheme are:

  • SeventyMM referral program: Get one sixth of your subscription fee waived for every new customer you bring in. So after you get 6 customers, your subscription is effectively free (well, as long as your referrals are active members).
  • MakeMyTrip High5 program: Gives you Rs. 500 coupon for every customer you get who signs up and makes a transaction.
  • Yaari referral program: First few members who get x number of friends to sign up on the site every month get an iPod nano.

Online Social Networks: With the onset of online user communities, lot of teenagers/youth spend quite a bit of time hanging out at these social joints. Yaari.com CEO Prerna Gupta is using an interesting approach to use this as a marketing avenue. She has created a profile on Orkut – a social networking site to promote her own Indian version of social networking community Yaari.com ! This is almost a free publicity medium. The key point here though is that it has to subtle. If you directly spam these places by creating a profile just for advertising, no one is going to pay attention. Other startups can take a cue and use this medium in other interesting ways. Like creating communities to start a conversation to introduce their services, get feedback or just to know the customers better. Other social avenues include popular blogs, which a lot of companies already try to have their presence in.

Sponsoring offline events/parties: Using this technique, the companies make an impression on the users’ mind that they are more than just an online service and are actually a part of the community. For e.g. TimesJobs.com organizes job fairs, Yahoo.in, Sulkeha.com were seen sponsoring BlogCamps, Tulleeho.com organizes wine trails, cocktail making sessions etc. The point to note here is that this technique does not always involves big bucks for sponsoring big events/conferences. Events/Parties can be small weekend parties or other relevant small events. Interestingly, MySpace actually built their initial traffic using this medium as well.

Extravagant thoughtless programs: What do you do if you have tons of cash and you do not want to waste any time thinking of effective ways of promoting your site? Lottery! Search engine ByIndia.com recently announced a $5 million sweepstakes program for new registrants to their website. I don’t know what others think, but I think this is the most stupid way to use $5 million for promotion of a website.

Simple creative marketing ideas: Mouthshut.com has recently started using autorickshaws as billboards. What a simple, creative and cost-effective of promoting their site! I think more such creative low-budget ideas need to be innovated/deviced by small startups. One medium that immediately comes to mind that can be effective, yet no one has used for marketing is mobile – more on that later. In the mean time, if you can think of some simple ways of marketing a site/service put it down here and we’ll discuss.

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10 predictions for year 2007

Written by: Vivek Garg

On Dec 31st, 2006

I have been thinking about the predictions that I want to make for the upcoming year. Predicting is a tricky business unless you are inspired by Nostradamus. First few things that come to mind if you tried predicting about the consumer Internet industry in India are : “mobile 2.0 will lead the way to web 2.0” or “more investments in booming industry” or “we will see increased M&A”. These predictions are either extended state of our present or they are generally true. So with the risk of sounding really stupid from iLeher camp, we put forward 10 specific predictions for year 2007. We tried to make them as specific as possible. Remember predicting is tough. But I am hoping this will get the dialogue started and we could encourage others to dare predict what they think will happen in future.     

1. Broadband growth in India will continue to disappoint by not showing an exponential growth. As against the target of 3 million broadband connections till 2005 end, only 0.18 million were achieved. At end-October, the total number of broadband connections stood at 1.92 million. The target till 2007-end is 9 million and 143 million by end of 2010.

2. WiMax will not be able to solve the last mile challenge; instead we will see a realistic alternative in cellular. Surge in WiFi enabled devices will increase the number of ways people get online.

3. Airline tax cuts will boost travel industry further in 2007. Better taxation model will lower the net cost of flying around in India. This will increase the volume for travel portals. Too many players will lead to lower margins on each transaction.

4. Introductions of DVR in Indian markets with onset of Set Top boxes and DTH – people will no longer have to sit through painful ads to watch their favorite soaps. Set-top boxes will increase the market share of VOD. Find a detail post on various movie distribution channels here .

5. Online maps and local data will become commonplace. People will start using street maps and peer reviews of local destinations. It will lead consumers to online directions and use of map for their travel. This will benefit local search players like mapmyindia, burrp, onyomo. Google has recently started offering street level maps in India. At least a few of the big players like yahoo/msn/google/rediff/indiatimes will start offering local search in India.

6. ATMs everywhere will become a platform for ad placement, movie tickets and quick data shopping. This will cause increased computer literacy of Indian populace. Indian Railways is already extending the use of Internet to assist passenger’s book e-tickets over the ATM.

7. Mobile payment and mobile ticketing will hit mainstream. This will lead the ecommerce players to take mobile interface more seriously.

8. We will find Indians spending more time playing games (mobile, PC and console). Zapak.com will find itself well positioned. We will see players entering the gaming arena.

9. At least some online DVD rental companies and travel portals will realize the importance of offline presence and will tie up with local retailers and local travel agents for convenience of non-Internet savvy population.

10. iLeher will continue building a community of young professionals trying to make sense of the complex web of events relating to Indian Internet industry. Read our about page if you are interested in being a part of this community.

Your comments/suggestions and predictions are most welcome.     

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Movers and Shakers of Year 2006

Written by: Madhur

On Dec 27th, 2006

It’s that time of the year. Everyone is writing about the best of 2006. We thought it would be nice to look back at the happenings in the industry in the past year. Here is a collection of news that made the headlines in 2006.

THE News
The biggest event of the year was undoubtedly the IPO of Info-Edge (group owning Naukri, 99acres, JeevanSathi). This event has heralded a new era in the consumer Internet industry in India as it became the first Internet company ever to be listed on an Indian Stock Exchange. We hope to see some more companies to follow suit in the coming few years to keep the rally going. Some of the probable followers include the Shaadi group, BharatMatrimony group and the online travel companies.

Investments
Lot of money has poured in the market in 2006. As Venture Intelligence reports, VCs have made 53 early-stage investments in start-ups in India worth $355 million during the first nine months of 2006. That’s still nearly twice as much activity in that period than the two previous years combined. Here is a partial list of the investors and their portfolio companies.The leading sector in terms of investments has been without any doubt – Travel. Makemytrip, Yatra, TravelGuru, Cleartrip are some of the big names in this sector and all of them have already taken their second rounds of funding this year. The biggest of the VC’s from Silicon Valley including Sequoia, KPCB, Matrix, Norwest, etc. have made their presence felt in India. Some of the other companies that attracted big investments included online DVD rental company SeventyMM, leading community portal Sulekha, India specific search engine Guruji.com and online tutoring company TutorVista.

M&A
The only one that we know of is the acquisition of web2.0 companies Bixee and Pixrat by MIH networks. We hope to see more activity in this sector in order to sustain the bullish web2.0 scene and the overall ecosystem.

Web2.0
Although we raised our own concerns about the sustainability of web2.0 companies, this has been the most active sector because of obvious reasons – low barrier to entry both in terms of technology and investment. Following the trend from the West, loads of startups are trying to make a mark in social networking scene including photo sharing, video sharing, news/events sharing. Here is a partial list of companies trying to fight it out to acquire whatever small percent of users and advertising revenue that is available in the Indian market today.

Fun facts and figures

  • Airline ticket customers formed 40% of online shoppers in India, followed by books comprising with 29% and music at 24% of the total purchases. 30,000 Indians buy travel tickets online everyday.
  • The number of online shoppers in India rose 7% to 3.49 million in the first half of 2006 from 3.27 million a year earlier.
  • High-speed connections in India more than doubled to 1.92 million at the end of October from 690,000 in the year 2005.
  • Desktops account for 80 per cent of the total personal computer market as compared to 20 per cent of laptops. The latter will grow at over 100 per cent from 431,834 units sold in 2005-06 to 863,668 units in 2006-07 as compared to desktop sales growing at 22 per cent from 4,164,724 units in 2005-06 to 5,676,111 units in 2006-07.
  • The number of total Internet users in India stands at 35 million currently; out of this 10 million are considered to be “power users”.

Next?
Overall, 2006 was an active year full of excitement in the industry among investors, entrepreneurs and of course the users of the Internet themselves. The year has kicked in the enthusiasm required for bootstrapping the so called “Silicon Valley in India“. 2007 is going to be very important to take these early developments to the next level towards realizing the Silicon Valley dream. At the risk of sounding obvious, increase in Internet penetration (esp. broadband) is on the top of my wish list for 2007. Without the Internet users equipped with good connection speed, industry cannot go much further. Other than that I think eCommerce really needs a boost because that is the main driver of the Internet economy. More eCommerce, more advertising dollars, more business models and more companies.

Where do you think the industry is heading from here? What’s in your wish list?

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