So, plenty of ideas to build a new food portal leveraging existing expert and user-contributed content, with enhancements in the form of formatting for mobile phones, RSS feeds to provide alerts, videos of the cooking process, personalisation, and more. But what is the business model? How does a site like this make money? Here are a few ideas:
Subscriptions: A part of the site could be available only to subscribers. I think the video content should be made available for the equivalent of tens of rupees per download. So, users can get the recipe details for free, but if they want to actually see the entire cooking process on-demand, then it is available for a fee.
Mobiles: Given the growth of cellphones in India, they can be tapped as a source for revenue. Food-related information could be a useful value-added service for cellphone users.
Advertising: The food industry is quite big and growing. The major Indian foods companies are still not advertising online in a significant way. But the more interesting opportunity could come from neighbourhood restaurants, who can even provide deals if they have space to fill. Non-intrusive contextual text ads could be a useful source of revenue.
Commerce: Selling ingredients and cooking-related appliances could be a potential source of revenue. Making books out of the content that exists on the site is another possible financial source.
Food is a very important part of our lives. A new food site done well could be financially lucrative. The time is right for leveraging a mix of content and technology to create richer user experiences. More importantly, it would also create a platform to build other vertical sites along similar lines.
The idea of this thought experiment was to think on how new technologies can help build better and more interactive content experiences, and at the same time also provide potential advertisers with targeted segments. Many times our legacy prevents us from thinking out of the box. Our habits change much slower than the relentless march of technology. And at the same time, it is the technological innovations which create new opportunities. The first ten years of the Internet in our lives have been a source of great value. The next five will probably see even more innovation as content producers start seeing the power of the changes and extensions in the Internets infrastructure.
In India, we have an opportunity to leapfrog and embrace much of this change. As the foundation of low-cost access devices (be it cheaper computers, thin clients, cellphones, TVs) leverage the communications base that is being built, the need will be for a new generation of services which go beyond the content that is in prevalence today. This is the opportunity for Indian entrepreneurs envision new services and applications for an India with a hundred million Internet users.