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Chandni Chowk tastes the power of the internet

Google India plans to register five lakh businesses by 2014. Currently, about 1,50,000 businesses have developed their websites from 7,850 towns across the country.

Even as the increasing penetration of internet in India opens up a whole new world of the empowered customer, small businesses are rapidly learning to harness the power of the web to their advantage. To tap this growing market, Google India and Hostgator, which provides hosting services, together initiated a three-year campaign in November, 2011, called 'India Get Your Business Online'. As a part of this campaign, a smaller initiative, called 'Chandni Chowk Now Online', was launched a month ago. Google has announced that in the course of one month, it has covered nearly 2,500 SMEs of Chandni Chowk, one the busiest markets in Old Delhi, and created an online presence for each of these businesses.

Rajan Anandan and Kapil Sibal at the Chandni Chowk now online press meet

Under the 'India Get Your Business Online' initiative, Google India offers free websites and domains to SMEs in India. This initiative provides websites at a maximum of four webpages per website. The Indiagetonline.in tool helps SMEs to build their websites for free for a period of one year.

The company plans to get five lakh businesses registered by 2014 under this initiative. As of now, about 1,50,000 businesses from 7,850 cities across the country have developed their websites through Indiagetonline.in. Though businesses will be registered from all over the country, the company plans to individually focus on each of the biggest markets in the country. 'Chandni Chowk Now Online' was a part of this initiative.

Chandni Chowk in Delhi hosts close to 5,000 small businesses, none of which had any online presence earlier. To spread awareness about the Chandni Chowk initiative, Google India sent out its own service-men, who went from door to door to register the businesses. Within the last one month, about half of the businesses have gone online and hence, have registered themselves on Google Maps, too.

Rajan Anandan, vice-president and managing director, sales and operations, Google India, says, "We chose to start with Chandni Chowk since it is one of the oldest markets, started in the 17th century. Creating websites for them and bringing them online was a special project for us. The major challenge was the lack of awareness about the wonders websites can do for the local businesses. Misconceptions about pricing and the maintenance of the quality of websites were the other challenges."

Kapil Sibal, Union Minister of Communication and IT says that the initiative will also help increase competition among the businesses. "With this, the market will be extended beyond Delhi, since the online platform is not restricted to the geographical boundaries," he adds.

Speaking about upcoming initiatives, Anandan says that they have got requests from various markets and traders' associations for the same. He adds that the company does not have any plans to monetise the initiative, though the investments are higher. Also, it can extend the campaign beyond 2014 if there is a need to so.

Normally, to start a website, three things are required - a domain name, development of the site and hosting the site. As per this initiative, domain names, hosting and initial development stands free for a year, wherein the hosting is done by Hostgator. However, later, the company will charge a nominal hosting charge of Rs 400 for a year.

For the record, India has internet penetration of close to 137 million users, of which 7 million use the internet from their mobile phones. This makes the country the third largest internet market in the world, which could touch a figure of 350 million by 2015.

There are about 47 million businesses that fall under the SME category in India. Of these, on November, 2011, four lakh businesses were connected to the internet, while only one lakh had active online presence. After the launch of 'India Get Your Business Online', Google India claims that it has extended this figure to 2,50,000 as of today.

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