Since the IndiaWorld deal has been brought back to the forefront in recent times because of the controversy surrounding Satyam, I thought it would be a good idea to read how it all began. I wrote this series in late 1997 and early 1998.
The IndiaWorld story begins in September 1994. I was in the US, trying to figure out a good business to do in an area other than software exports. It was the time when the Internet and Web were just about beginning to catch people’s fancies. I spent a few weeks at a friend’s place, browsing the Web on a 14.4 Kbps dial-up modem with Netcom’s Netcruiser account. The experience was absolutely amazing. It was quite evident then that the Web as a medium would have a significant impact on how information was disseminated. The Web offered a good business opportunity: attract the NRIs (I was one myself!) with good intent, and then look at offshoots in electronic commerce.
That was the vision of IndiaWorld: a bridge between Indians worldwide.
On my return to India in November 1994, I wrote to various publishers and talked to a number of companies and individuals to participate in the venture by offering their content. It was tough explaining the Internet and the Web to people in India then: there was no commercial Internet access provider (our “shell” account was through NCST/ERNET). Most thought the Internet to be another variation of a satellite channel! I would take a notebook with NCSA Mosaic, and show them the power of hyperlinks. It wasn’t quite clear how it would make an impact on businesses, but yes, it was going to transform how NRIs got their information.
Our focus was on IndiaWorld as a news and information service for NRIs. With help (and content) from Indian Express, India Today, Dataquest, Reader’s Digest, Kensource, Crisil, CMIE, DSP Financial, Professional Management Group and Laxman, IndiaWorld was formallylaunched from a server in the US on March 13, 1995.