If the Indian
online ad industry were at war, MIH Web would win hands down with its carpet bombing approach. The Indian arm of South African media company MIH has dabbled in everything possible from social networking to vertical search, and gaming to online polls. Has anything hit the jackpot thus far? No, but MIH remains unfazed.
For now, the expansion continues. The Gurgaon-headquartered company recently opened an office and engineering centre in Bangalore, and will set one up in Mumbai in six months. It is also developing 'knowledge search', which will deliver relevant search results categorised by the context in which they appear.
Along with the acquisitions came two more products - Newscola, a Digg-style news site, and Apnamarket, a classifieds site. Kashyap calls them "experimental brands", saying that the industry can expect a lot of experimentation from MIH Web over the next few years. "We need to sow a lot of seeds and see which blossom and which turn into weeds," he adds. For now, Bixtree and Pixrat retain their original brand names.
The 'knowledge search' is in the development stage, and the company is yet to decide on the form it will take for users. The search delivers results across Ibibo's blogs, Sawaal, Polls and other products, apart from web results. Whether this feature will be a part of the Ibibo brand or of the existing search engine, Dwaar, is a decision yet to be taken, says Kashyap. However, a hunt is on for an ad agency to brand the service.
As for future acquisitions, Kashyap refrains from naming any, but says that the focus is on online companies. What about mobile? "We may look at mobile acquisitions, but we are never going to sell ringtones and wallpapers. That market is too cluttered. What we could look at are killer applications on mobile." He reiterates that the company's acquisition strategy is to acquire technology. "Our focus is not on building technology, but on investing in it."
Kashyap does not share a clear timeline for advertising its various products, though the upcoming office in Mumbai will perform a lot of sales and business development functions. The company is also working on advertising technology that will deliver specific audiences to advertisers across MIH Web's users. "We are not worried about garnering advertisers. The demand for advertising in India currently outstrips inventory," he adds.
Where MIH Web will go next is anybody's guess. With the backing of South Africa-based cash-rich media giant Naspers, with its revenues of $2.5 billion in 2006, MIH Web doesn't need to worry about finances for some time. What it does need to worry about is how quickly the search for a blockbuster product (like QQ, the widely popular IM in China) yields results.