Investors cautiously optimistic about Web 2.0 in India

MUMBAI: Investors appeared optimistic and cautious at the same time about Web 2.0, in a panel discussion held yesterday as part of IAMAI‘s Web 2.0 conference, titled ‘The Web‘s Next Frontier‘.

Moderated by SeedFund managing partner Mahesh Murthy, the discussion hovered basically around key metrics that investors would examine while investing in Web 2.0 models in India and how they would evaluate emerging media business models.

IDG ventures India MD Manik Arora articulated on the prospective business model, the team working on it and the amount of localisation possible in the venture, as key areas he would look to while investing in a Web 2.0 model. He said, "I‘m not convinced that some Indian copy of Orkut or Myspace is going to work in India, unless there is a compelling reason to do so. We would be looking into the speed of implementation through a local language, mobile optimisation, user generated content (UGC) potential and also an offline presence for the model."


Matrix Partners MD Rishi Navani, who‘s invested in India‘s first online movie rental site Seventymm, appeared highly skeptical of any Web 2.0 model. "To me, Web 2.0 in India is a misnomer. We‘re currently going through a Web 0.5, I guess. However, we are open to investing in ventures, where Web 2.0 features can be incorporated in a Web 1.0 site."

Insisting on perseverance with Web 2.0 in India, Helion VC MD Kanwaljit Singh said, "Optimism is there in India and since its a long term investment, we‘re willing to wait. Ultimately, the Web 2.0 model founding team should be living the phenomena. Having said that, I think advertising based models will only succeed."

On being asked what factors he would examine within the model, Singh replied, "I‘d like to test the possibility of setting up the model online, offline and on other channels." Citing the example of Just Dial as a success, he insisted that Web 2.0 models offering local information and taking up local issues had potential to succeed in India.


Cleartrip travel services CEO and Sherpalo ventures partner Sandeep Murthy was brief in his vision of a Web 2.0. He said, "We‘ll focus on what customers need and we‘re particularly not worried whether it is a Web 2.0 or 1.0." Naming Ebay and as copy-paste models, when asked whether an adaptation of a US-based model would be a cause for worry, he said, "I think a cut-copy-paste model is inevitable in some ways, but we‘ll address firms which are relevant to the Indian context."

Navani however, said, "If we fund something in India, it‘s quite likely to be similar to a US based model. We‘ll first find out whether there is a large business opportunity and second if there is differentiated content."

Nexus India Capital Advisors founding director Suvir Sujan asserted that Web 2.0 is a difficult model to execute in India. "In Web 2.0, your market is building your product. Since websites like Orkut already have engaged users so deeply, entrepreneurs must figure out whether similar models are needed. If yes, then they must come up with a sufficiently different product."

All panelists agreed upon need for advertising-driven business model. Navani pointed out that a good user interface is a precursor for any Web 2.0 model, which would attract more advertisers. Murthy opined that bringing classified advertisements from print, would be a feasible idea only if the firms had the required ground fleet to do so. Agreeing, Sujan said that the challenge for Web 2.0 would be to get advertising at the right time.

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