"Nothing else in
the world... not all the armies... is as powerful as an idea whose time has come," goes Victor Hugo's famous quote. Alok Kejriwal, CEO, Contests2win, recited this to the gathering from the Internet industry to drive home the point that the Internet boom is indeed upon us.
Eminent entrepreneurs and venture capitalists deliberated on why the Internet space looks favourable and what the prospects were in the years to come. The participants in the panel discussion included Murugavel Janakiraman, CEO, BharatMatrimony.com; Ashish Gupta, MD, Helion Venture; Anurag Dod, CEO, Guruji.com; Avnish Bajaj, MD, Matrix Partners, and Ashwin Damera, CEO, Travelguru.com.
The panel was gung-ho about the sea change the Internet space had witnessed over the past years and was optimistic about the medium's changing scenario. Janakiraman of BharatMatrimony.com was of the opinion that a number of services would come up soon besides existing ones such as ticketing and matrimony. Opportunities in food and movie/concert ticketing also needed to be exploited.
He spoke of two options for building a viable Internet business. First, he said, one could identify an established business model abroad and execute it, Indianise it or be innovative and disruptive. He also expressed discontent at the way so many social networking sites have cropped up. "Building social networking websites is the easiest thing to do and lately there have been many me-toos," he asserted.
Gupta of Helion Venture was wary of the huge sums of money spent on the marketing of Internet companies. "The rush to spend money on marketing to get traffic can come in the way of the boom that we are talking about," he cautioned. According to him, the one thing to watch out for was whether the company would remain afloat to see the day when the huge expenditure really yields clicks or traffic.
Another key factor for the Internet businesses to be cautious about was the sustainability factor. Damera of Travelguru.com observed that from just three travel portals a few years ago, today the number has risen to eight. "Is this space adequate for eight players?" he asked, saying that profitability was difficult to sustain in this situation.
Bajaj of Matrix Partners added that in India it was very difficult for a stand-alone business to sustain itself, as compared to businesses that are a part of existing media companies.
As Dod said, Internet consumption patterns have evolved. "People no longer harbour inhibitions about online transactions and are using the Internet for reasons ranging from research to shopping," he said.
The inference clearly was that Internet businesses need to cash in on the opportunities, look not just at users but also at usage, and develop compelling applications for consumers.
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