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February 14, 2006

Internet cos. are back (on the cover of business magazines)

Businessworld has a cover story titled "Internet business grows big" with some interesting facts and figures.
The total Internet business is big — worth over Rs 2,200 crore. About Rs 500 crore comes from advertising, ecommerce (not including billings) and other revenues. Add in access charges at a minimum of Rs 200 per month, and multiply it with the 7 million-odd subscriber base. What you get is over Rs 1,700 crore being spent just to get on to the Internet. The revenues for the four big classified sites is Rs 200 crore. But nobody has an inkling about the numbers for several other categories such as mobile content or broking.

...(Sanjeev Bikhchandani, the CEO of online jobs web site leads a pack of a dozen-odd entrepreneurs who suddenly find themselves being chased by investors. Deep Kalra, founder and CEO of Makemytrip, says that he has met more VCs in the last three months than in the last five years. And Alok Kejriwal, CEO, Contests2win, says that he is back to meeting a VC a week for the first time since 2000.

...Global investors and Internet giants have India on their radar because they know that 65 per cent of Indians will be 15-35 years of age a decade from now. The youngest population translates into the largest Web space (research shows that younger people are more likely to be online). That India has the lowest broadband prices worldwide ($4-$5 monthly) and is seeing one of the world’s fastest growing mobile revolutions tells them that the ‘always on Indian’ is inevitable. They have seen that happening to China. Over the next 3-5 years, they expect to see it in India.

...In India, two categories in particular have been successful — jobs and matrimony. The combined turnover of the four biggest players (Naukri, Monster India, Shaadi and BharatMatrimony) is touching Rs 200 crore. These two categories have seen remarkable growth in the last five years, and that is leading to newer challenges. Take Naukri, which has grown 100 per cent in each of the last seven years. Five years ago, the focus was to build a database of resumes. Today, it has a database of five million resumes (growing by 8,000 daily), and its next step is to enhance service offerings like better response management, advanced search tools, etc.

Companies that have found success in jobs and matrimony are now using their understanding of the online classifieds business to enter new categories. Murugavel Janakiraman, founder-CEO of BharatMatrimony, diversified into jobs (Clickjobs) and real estate (Indiaproperty) in December 2005 and now plans to launch an automobile portal. Bikhchandani has also diversified into matrimonial (Jeevansaathi) and real estate (99acres). Both Janakiraman and Bikhchandani are now trying to become the default portal of choice for all classified categories. Categories like real estate, automobiles and education will be the next to go online, further eating into print revenues.

...The Challenges
One, there is no vernacular content, so all the 40 million users are English-speaking. That brings us dangerously close to saturating the universe of Indians speaking English. To add the next 40 million users, the Internet has to turn vernacular.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder of Venture Intelligence India, which tracks venture capital activity in India and Indian-founded companies worldwide. View sample issues of Venture Intelligence India newsletters and reports.