Archive for October, 2007

Collegemantra.com – Education Portal or Social Networking Play!!!

While reading through daily feeds coming in from various blogs i noticed one made by alootechie on collegematra.com. Education sector for long has seen rise and fall of many information sites. Problem which many of them face are traction within the community.

Collegemantra.com as pointed out a by rajesh a mantra consulting company is doing the directory with student empowerment route which lot of MBA sites like pagalguy.com, coolavenues.com and at one time egurucool.com(before bought being bought over by NIIT) took.  See one thing is good is they have got the idea right but have taken the steps wrong. In sense everyone tries to map the navigation and search steps as the way sites in west behave. Although one needs to understand the real audience for the sites. If you are trying to copy coolavenues or pagalguy in terms of product modeled with differentiation on targeting it wont really work.  As target audience set is really extreme.

Few facts on education sector which i have gathered based on my experience working with education centric portals.

Audience Targeting:

In india people tend to get the audience targeting wrong. precieve audience which uses the site is totally dependent on type of education information one is looking for.

K-12: This domain you may still find childrens/teachers sourcing information for enhancing education

Undergraduate Program: This is my favorite and most unbelievable fact 70% of information being mined or read on internet as a medium is not by prospective student but by parents,brother-sisters,uncles and aunty the whole eco-system around but the prospective students. So if you go out there and surf the sites which are available catering to this segment are only worth while for 30% of people looking for such information. This is the reason why forums dont work in these sites or ask a student doesnt really make a difference.

Graduate Program: Audience looking for this information is more qualified focus and 85% of time prospective student himself is looking for information.

Profiling of Colleges and matching to users

Lot of people profile the colleges on basis of things like career paths like engineering, B.Ed etc.  This means provide information to those people who are already clear on what they want to do in life and reach a source which helps them simplify their play. Though this is again 20% of prospective student population what about the rest of 80% which forms the confused category and is joining any engineering program which they can get in as infosys will surely visit the campus for recruitments or traditionally the engineering program is good for a school so the MBA program offered will also be great. Just becoming a doctor is necessary and it really doesnt matter if they didnt get into MBBS but with degree in dental they feel they still have achieved what they wanted(P.S no offence to dental people and i know dentist makes more money in west but its for my those friends who wanted to become an MBBS and by change went on to become a dentist).

Online models gives us opportunity to create dynamic systems which adapt to type of users and behave on responses to the level of clarity a user has. Though still sites come up with simple interfaces and basic model. I had wanted to do a post on bharatstudent.com but for some reason social networking play is not being used to best of its capability by these new portals.

Opportunity in education sector is immense due to clarity in any one site leading the charge for the vertical.  try naming top 10 in the sector and rest all will make sense.

Interview with Amit Kumar Co-Founder of Idiscoverindia.com – Independent India Trip Planning Platform

Below is an email interview we did with Amit Kumar from Idiscoverindia.com  – the site was recently launched in beta stage where its helping budget travelers plan out trips to indian destinations like agra, rajasthan etc.

 Q1. Can you give us some background on founders and their experience ?

All three current founders share a common passion for travel. While I have experience working in online advertising  in USA , our other two founders are from creative and technology backgrounds, with varied experience of working on national and international clients of repute ,both in India and USA respectively.

My experience with online media tracking and strategy combined with  our Creative Director’s experience in design and usability along with our Chief Technologists expertise in developing and implementing enterprise wide systems helps us to build a formidable team to launch our brand .

 

Q2. Some brief on idiscoverindia.com the concept, why travel vertical, why now,how you started full time involvement and current setup, how are you funded?

All three of us co-founders always felt the need for an independent third-party that could lead us through a travel trip . I mean someone that assists me thru a travel planning process and not just a purchase process. By this I mean  a guide or a friend who could tell me where to travel to, what to do there, how to get there, where to buy purchase for the cheapest or the particular thing one is looking for  ,etc ,etc. Moreover we wanted a quality site  that takes some responsibility to ensure that all the information is made available readily by a trusted third-party rather than just banking on users to generate this content or a travel agent to form content ( which anyways is aimed at maximizing their own profits and not necessarily the best option for the traveler).

In a nutshell IdiscoverIndia.com is a common platform that answers everyone’s queries regarding their Travel Search. So if you are a small hotel we have tool for you that allows you to market your property through our site, if you are a travel agent you can send offers directly to the customers looking for a service or say even market your hotels through our site by integrating into our hotel application  and soon we will have tools that will also allow users to compare online tickets. So our site is built to provide travelers with enough information regarding their travel needs and guide them and help them to decide and choose throughout their decision making  cycle up to the point of purchase.

Months before we registered as a private limited company , or you can say that from the time we formed a group , I went full-time with the company along with  1 programmer and 1 operations personnel and 3-4 freelance content writers.  Our other 2 co-founders have been working  part –time since our inception. This was important for two reasons, firstly it was imperative for one of the co-founders to be on board full time to deal with the daily nuances of a start –up .The other co-founders went on a job and worked part-time on IDiscoverIndia.com to provide the much needed financial support  throughout our building process.

Now that the much needed initial work is complete  , the company is looking for investments to consolidate its position to build further on its vision.

Q3. How do you differentiate with community driven destination guide kind of sites like holidayiq.com

Well I think to begin with we generate our own content unlike others and will have user generated content only  as an addition to our own content. Secondly we provide tools to other service providers that enable them to market their services or products directly through our technology. So in this case we fulfill a role of enabler, facilitator and an arbitrator. As of today we believe we are poised to be a more integrated site between travelers and service providers than any of our closest competitors. However , its seen that lots of other companies in similar space are trying to fulfill the same role that we are currently in .

Q4. Do you feel indian online travel space has more scope for vertical content driven portals or aggregators like ixigo.com or zoomtra.com

Well naturally there should be some kind of aggregation on this front, I know for sure that these companies want to get their hands on content , but then again currently people are just trying to get better at what they do the best and eventually the economies of scale will dictate such portals merging with some other content driven portal.  I hope these companies understand earlier than later and get on the road of scalability rather than companies spending so much money individually on media and providing distributed services rather than integrated single platform to deliver.

 

Q5.  You guys have done a great job by cataloging destinations based on interest. Do you feel lot of travel information sites rather choose destination specific cataloging over interest. You feel destination brand name brings more value when travelers are organizing trips or end of the day experience they get out of the trip is more important.

It’s a catch 22 situation .  Lots of sites choose brand destinations to promote trips because that’s what users identify with and that’s what users are looking for . On the other hand brand destinations are “known destinations” because of the way they have been marketed in the first place. Basically we have found out that how a destination gets marketed is very important in determining how it is perceived. So many times certain service providers promote a certain mode of transportation or a particular route just for their own personal gains.  As we do not have any vested interest in promoting any particular service provider or travel product we are able to assess the product or service for its merits without any bias. Consider a situation where a travel agent pushes for a trip to Agra by car  for a night , when a user could definitely have a better option for  Agra in form of morning train and coming back the next day by the evening train. The traveler in such case is coerced by the travel agent to hire a car from Delhi coz he stands to make more money  even though it’s a 5 hr drive one way which could have very well be done in 2hr by train , thereby providing much more valuable time for tourist to spend .

Q6. Which is your target market. Keeping in mind existing stage of US online travel industry don’t you feel you are better positioned to service that mature market as compared to developing learning indian market.

Our Target market varies by product or service that we market. As of today our target market might seem to be skewed towards budget category if you look at hotels , but then again  a user can request any kind of package as all kinds of travel agents / service providers  cater to the leads originating from users.  As for content this line of differentiation is already blur , and overall  will thin out even more across the board as we evolve .

 As of targeting US ,I am not sure how I can leverage this better for one geographic market over the other , I think each will have its own challenges but at the end all users look for the same. Brand Loyalty is very tepid in this segment. Loyalty comes from being positioned as independent and being able to provide an unbiased  viewpoint .

Q7. Have you looked at monetizing your content with advertisements from indian ad networks or publishers.

Yes we have just started working on that and are actively looking for advertisers and alliance partners.

Q8. What Unique marketing strategies or synergies you have in pipeline to become revenue positive and have a clear growth trajectory. Like are you looking at social networking or wireless as mass reach out play.

Currently we are looking at just ways to provide a product and service to the user that helps them get the best of what they are looking for. We are still in the process of developing our model fully in terms of the tools that we will be introducing .

Q9. What all can we expect from idiscoverindia.com in future.

In IdiscoverIndia.com you will find a trusted advisor and friend  who will help you create the trip you are looking for.

 

Q10. Any word of advice for budding entrepreneurs on the whole startup experience.

1.Sometimes its better to raise money quickly  rather than wait for a prototype before going in the market to raise money.

2. Look for ways of consolidation and scale and don’t delve too much into share proportions. Your penny can be worth a pound or a pound a penny depending on your timing.

3. Take risk and either join a startup or have one of your own , whatever your level of risk taking is , the experience is invaluable , even if you struggle with money first.

Blogadda.com – I understand the business model but not the necessity

While trying to find indian blogs i bumped into this site called blogadda.com. They tend to provide a blog search engine which let you search for content and new blogs based on meta tag search concept. I tried adding my blog to their system. Though the process was simple and not time consuming it doesnt offer lot in terms of account features which will make sure a blogger keeps returning to make sure his/her blog can draw more advantage from traffic being generated.

Their are couple of things blogadda.com could do. One way is to monetize a daily digest feed for a particular keyword which could have advertisements from indian publishers. They can look at tyroo for driving such synergy. Secondly they can look  at ad inventory management for bloggers as most of the blogs i went through was from amateur bloggers which dont really update their site regularly. So individually they might not be value to any ad network but together in a bunch if blogadda can create link between contents then both bloggers and blogadda can benefit from revenue sharing.

Anyway will wait to see what more can blogadda.com offer hopefully just not trying to play on bigadda.com – reliance company brand name to gain advantage.

Visit blogadda.com to discover Indian blogs

Storrz.com – Is India ready for online Grocery Shopping?

When subhiksha announced in last IAMAI meet that they would be soon launched online grocery retailing it really made me think that after working and living in a developed country like australia where big grocery retailers like safeway and coles were providing online grocery shopping what made me waste my sunday morning specially going to the stores and shopping.

Talking to couple of friends on phone made me realized online grocery shopping cannot work in any country as lot of people dont plan out their groceries in advance and the next business day delivery being offered is not as attractive to within 2 hours telephone delivery being offered even though store might be just opposite to your place.

Secondly in store shopped 40% of grocery bills include items which were never planned for which means need to go around the store look and feel thing forms a very important aspect while doing shopping.

Lastly lot of friends did point out this is the only family time together they get and removing this activity from the week only cleans up space to do more office work then spend quality time with family.

Now looking at Indian scenario with different kind of formats being followed by retailers to reach every corner or neighborhood the need and necessity to shop for vegetables,fruits,pulses  online goes away.

What does storrz.com offer ?

storrz.com tend to act as a shopping platform pretty much similar to one being offered by fabmall.com which means retailers host their products on storrz.com website and storrz.com takes care of logistics and payment collections.

Currently they are retailing MTR food packs and cookie man’s delicious cookies though they are not so tempting that you will just buy them online.

What models can E- Grocery Retailing platforms can implement to increase reach out or help existing formats?

i)Develop automated tool on their online website to create shopping list and ability for registered users to sms list to their mobile phones. They can now sms this list to some one from family going to the store with quantity required and when the person reach store they can use the same reference# in mobile phone to bring up order list on convenient touch screen kiosks available with ability to pay by credit card and someone from store pack their order.

ii) Offer discounted inventory online this is something which can push online grocery shopping so that people can check for things expiring in 15 days item or things available for mass  clearance at better prices online as they might be stocked in Area Warehouse but not stocked on shelves due to lack of acceptance from buyers.

Their are many other ideas which can be implemented but just offering online grocery retailing is something which india can do without for another year or two.

Next step in Localized Search Engine – Guruji.com Shows Way!!!

With Google leading the pack of receiving maximum searches the focus has shifted from providing global content search engine to providing localized search with ability to understand structure. Guruji.com is showing way to other providers by providing structure to movie timing search and show search city wise or movie wise. This content like trailers and movie information is being pulled in through website nowrunning.com – Indian movies portal. The search is pretty neat feature but with comming in of portals like bookmyshow.com i seriously doubt relevance provided by them keeping in mind bookmyshow.com is covering more # of screens and theatres.

Though what i do like is the new formats localized content providers are trying to bring in .As these structures will help them develop business models which go forward from traditional ad display and also help easily take accessibility to other mediums like Mobile phone where many sites are still not compatible. This will also give the portal team to grow vertical by vertical approach which formed basis of yahoo.com growth.


Contact Details

E-mail:siddharthpuri@gmail.com Call Me :+91-9910444460
October 2007
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