IndiaWorld concentrated heavily on content — aggregation, rather than
creation. It has been our belief that it is difficult to compete with
print-medium brand names on content: without large investments, it is
difficult to match their ability to create content. Also, the
incremental cost for a print-medium provider to put its content on the
Web is marginal.
So, keeping in view that sooner or later, all the content providers
are going to have a web presence, we looked at creating an all-in-one
service on the Net: news, stock quotes, astrology, Laxman cartoons,
news articles from India Today, etc. The focus was on building an
Internet brand, which will attract people and give them all they need
in one service. The big draw were the news headlines, which were
updated twice daily, and the concomitant free email service.
For the first two years of its service, IndiaWorld generated almost
95% of its traffic from outside India. We saw this changing in early
1997, as more and more Indians started getting on to the Net. It was
then that our content aggregation and the all-in-one strategies
underwent a change. We decided to (a) create specific non-news sites,
targetting an audience within India also (we expect that by next year,
more than half the access will be from people within India), and (b)
actually create content in these specific areas. While IndiaWorld
would remain the mother brand, popular sections would be broken out
with their own identities.
As a result, starting with khoj, the
search engine, the IndiaWorld family now encompasses a total of nine
sites – Khel (Cricket),
Man Pasand (favourites),
Samachar (customised news),
Dhan (personal finance),
Itihaas (History) and
a Samachar-cousin, targeted at the Asian region. Each of these sites
is updated daily, and in most cases, builds on a strong technology
component. Khel covers matches involving India and has the only
queryable cricket database of all ODIs and tests ever played.
khoj is a Yahoo-Altavista mix, with a directory and search engine.
Samachar has been perhaps the biggest success in terms of the
effort-performance scale. It runs automatically, creating the news
links every 30 minutes, and its single page generates over 15,000 page
views a day, increasing about 7-8% a week. More importantly, it puts
us in the News business, without having to hire any journalists! What
also surprised us was the success of Bawarchi. Saroj’s
one-new-recipe-a-day gets over 7,500 page views a day.
This business model runs counter to the more common model of a
concentration on a single segment (news or business or
entertainment). We think that unless the penetration of the Internet
is very high in a specific country, it will be difficult for one niche
site to generate enough page views to attract advertising on a
large-scale. Also, because we were in the game ahead of the others, it
positioned us very well to spin off sites and generate the traffic for
The success of this strategy is evident from the fact that
traffic on IndiaWorld is up from 30,000 page views in Jan to over
125,000 a day now (and exceeding 250,000 on days on which cricket
matches are covered live).
What are our future plans? To continue building on the family of
websites, and adding greater personalisation (today, there are only
two personalisable sections: Stock Quotes and Samachar). In addition,
we have also developed an advertising management system to allow for
easy control and placement of ads across all the sites. Codenamed
khojnet, this will be deployed early next year, and will offer
us (and advertisers) a real-time MIS on ads and clickthroughs.
Next Week: Part III discusses how RDC leveraged the IndiaWorld
opportunity into other segments in the Internet services market, and
the lessons we have learnt from three years in the Internet business