Emergic: Rajesh Jain's Blog

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NET.COLUMNS: The IndiaWorld Story (Part III)

January 7th, 1998 · No Comments

  • Part I of the IndiaWorld Story
  • Part II of the IndiaWorld Story

    When we began IndiaWorld in early 1995, we had little idea what we
    would be doing three years later. All we knew was that being early
    would open up opportunities would others would not be able to spot
    early. And that is exactly what happened.

    IndiaWorld began by offering home pages and websites, the first Indian
    company to do so. Banks, finance, real estate and publishers were
    among the early clients. Setting up home pages did more than offering us a
    source of revenue. It got us in direct touch with the domestic market,
    and exposed us to requirements much earlier. IndiaWorld has been able
    to downstream this advantage into multiple streams of business
    (advertising, custom software development, and most recently,
    messaging and communications) with the same clients.

    The growth of the IndiaWorld website into a network of multiple sites
    was also driven by the need to cater to a growing domestic
    audience. Capturing mindshare in a segment early enough helps reduce
    the investment it takes when there are many players in the business.
    While India has been largely ignored by the international players
    (there are no Indian flavours of international websites), it proffers
    an opportunity for domestic companies to build up a strong
    base. Having a strong local base is very important for long-term
    success. It is a lesson Indian software majors have by and large
    ignored.

    What are some of the things we have learnt in the past three years?

    Setting up a business in India is non-trivial. There is little help
    from venture capitalists or from banks. Being small is almost a bane.
    So, it is very important for a business to be profitable at an early
    stage. Being acquired is not a long-term strategy (or for that matter,
    even a short-term one). One has to build it and be able to run it for
    quite some years to come. This environment makes it difficult for
    entrepreneurs. However, it also offers a corollary: since resources
    are always limited, it makes one think on optimisation their usage,
    and on what one does. For a small business, there is no such thing as
    a small mistake.

    Because we had little or no access to external funds, we have to
    ensure that each activity we took up was profitable. And
    over a period of time, this ensured a very good base for the
    business. The challenge, of course, is to ensure that short-term
    profit motives are balanced by long-term strategic decisions. In our
    case, the home pages business generated the short-term revenues, while
    the investment in a Network of websites offered a longer-term
    opportunity for building up page views to target advertisers.

    In the Internet segment, it became quite evident early on that the
    market will take time to grow. India was not going to go from 0 to a
    million in a year, as we would have liked. In India, everything moves
    a little slower! But we also catered to a significant audience which
    was outside India. So, we had to keep up with the changes happening
    worldwide. The Net itself was an incredible resource — in terms of
    software, information and business ideas. It is important to spend
    time on the Net and read emails coming in from surfers — they are the
    best source of new ideas.

    Technology plays an important role. We built our systems mostly from
    public domain technology — Linux and Apache. This minimised the
    starting cost, and also enabled us to implement projects rapidly. In
    our case, the time from start to finish for launching
    khoj was 10 days, for
    KHEL, it was three weeks.
    We find it easier to get support on Linux and Apache than on
    some commercial products!

    On needs to be almost-evangelical while marketing the Internet in
    India. Technology isn’t hot in India, and the Net is still viewed more as a
    technology, than a medium for communications, marketing and commerce.
    That is why marketing requires more than adequate knowledge of the
    technological platforms. One needs to convince companies that this is
    the right approach. Its not as much as selling a product or service as
    it is selling a vision — of doing things differently, of creating a
    Business Strategy.

    Internet Vision, Technology and Traffic — they’ve made IndiaWorld
    what it is. Vision helps us see new market opportunities early,
    Technology lets us speed projects to market and traffic helps us
    generate the numbers which are required for making sites commercially
    successful.

    The opportunities on the Internet are immense. It requires one to
    understand the fundamental changes which are being brought about by
    computers and communications. Being able to think through the impact
    the Net will have on future business will open up significant
    opportunities for entrepreneurs and companies. Just think, your
    biggest competitor two years down the line may not even be existing yet!

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