's Digital Edge
Techies and marketers discuss Web 2.0 at IAMAI event Team

(22 June 2007 11:04 pm)


MUMBAI: Is it a bubble? A jargon? A myth? Or is it simple collaborative interactivity making sound business sense? These questions and more were discussed today at the day long Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) conference 'The Web's Next Frontier'.

Social networking, user generated content (UGC) and a debate over the arrival of the next generation of the internet, Web 2.0 dominated the morning session of the conference.

In a panel discussion hosted by Matrix Partners founding manager partner Avnish Bajaj, web entrepreneurs discussed their views about building Web 2.0 in India, business building potential and possible strategies and technology that could be adopted.


Social networking sites formed the cream of the discussion. Admitting that Orkut dominated the scene in India, founder Vivek Pahwa said, "A lot of hype around Web 2.0 is unjustified. In India, it is more of a resurgence of the internet, driven by higher broadband penetration. Hence it has become easier for users to get into the social networking space."

Microsoft corporation India online business strategy manager Ravi Datanwala focussed on key strategies his organisation could provide in delivering web solutions. He said, "Microsoft provides the building blocks and services for emerging Web 2.0 start-ups. We need to look at user experience which encourages user participation and secondly present a technology that facilitates the same."


People Group's business head Navin Mittal said, "Online relationships can be built in a more mature manner if the right tools are available. Without user generated content (UGC), Web 2.0 is just a piece of software. Hence we introduced 'easy-blogs' and albums where people can upload photos. In India, its only a matter of time that people will get click-happy." founder Rehan Yar Khan however insisted on content-innovation. Citing that users already had an array of networking sites to choose from, he said, "We've realised that marketing of your product is crucial. Its so damn expensive to make customers aware of your product, that user-to-user customer acquisition remains to be used as a tool that can work better than viral marketing. I think content differentiation will drive traffic in this space."

In another session, Windows Live MSN India country manager Jaspreet Bindra moderated a panel discussion discussing the marketing perspective in Web 2.0. Whilst eliciting some laughs with his tongue-in-cheek humor, he sought views on how the advertisers viewed Web 2.0 as a marketing tool.

Bindra artfully set the forum open, saying, "I've realised that a user in Web 2.0 is like a horse. You can lead it to the water, but not force it to drink it. And yes, you get to hear it straight from the horse's mouth."

Starcom IP Asia head Pushkar Sane however, considered Web 2.0 as mere jargon. "Web 2.0 is a term coined by the industry; users are accepting the web in a seamless manner. An identity shift is taking place as users have become much more embracing to the virtual world, writing and communicating with strangers," he said.

Google India MD Shailesh Rao said, "Mobile and PC penetration is resulting into the reality of a network. It is the power of networks that's helping Google to float content. Technology is getting cheaper and any kind of marketing activity today has to involve user participation."

Claiming to represent the blogger community, Chennai blogger and F5ive technologies director Kiruba Shankar tried clearing myths about blogging, which today is a hotly debated topic under Web 2.0. "Blogging is generating money, of course. But it is wrong for advertisers to look at blogs as page views. Blogging and podcasting are mediums of expression. The arrival Yahoo and MSN will make the revenue model more competitive for blogs in India."

Technology provider for sites like Indiatimes, Sify, MSN, Fropper amongst others, Akamai technologies product marketing head Tarun Bangari asserted that promotions have the best impact in Web 2.0. Reacting to Shankar's example where marketers went on overdrive to capture blogger attention, he said, "You could set up your own company sponsored community on the networking sites. However, marketing should not interrupt the spirit of discussion on these sites."

Citibank India eAlliances head Garima Chaudhary however, chose to adopt a cautious approach to Web 2.0. "Web 2.0 is a journey for us and we're using it as a part of our conversational marketing strategy with customers, wherein we can receive better feedback from them. However, it is tough to track the cost per lead generated and hence we still need to measure the returns on the same." She however, rejected blogs as a medium for direct marketing.

Both the sessions however agreed on the fact that although Web 2.0 is still in its nascent stages in India, there is a lot of optimism about the potential for growth. According to estimates, even at the current internet penetration, India has roughly 40 million web users which is fourth highest in the world.

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