Following a number of website launches in the previous fiscal, Indian Express Online Media Private Ltd. appears set to continue with expansions in the new financial year. Just a few days back, IE Online launched lifealth.com, a bilingual website dedicated to the lifestyle and health domain. The word which has emerged from inside the organisation is that IE Digital will launch two more websites shortly, namely, Evesly.com and Hindom.com.
In a bid to confirm the names and know more about the upcoming ventures, exchange4media approached IE Online CEO Sandeep Amar. Though his response could not be gathered at the time of filing of this report, sources informed exchange4media that one of the new websites is targeted towards women. In December last year, exchange4media was first to report on IE’s grand expansion plans, which included publishing content in Indian languages such as Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu besides coming out with websites focused on technology, lifestyle and women.
“Whichever market we will go to, we will challenge the leader. If we go to Malayalam, we will challenge Malayala Manorama and we will beat them,” Amar had asserted. Shortly after, in late January, Express went live with ieMalayalam.com, a regional website whose team is stationed across eight locations in Kerala. Express has also vowed to offer Lifealth’s regional editions. It has been learnt by exchange4media that a news website in Tamil could be Express’ next big regional launch. From March onwards, new media editor Nandgopal Rajan is said to be on the lookout to hire journalists in Chennai who are proficient in Tamil.
From a technological standpoint, it is confirmed that IE Online is in the process of migrating towards home-grown technical infrastructure. In mid-March, the company went public with what it termed as “a first of its kind text to speech feature” on its app which enabled users to listen to news stories. With the content and technology blueprint in place, the trickier part concerns monetisation.
Many of IE’s online products such as Techook.com and ieMalayalam.com are ad free at this stage. Having ruled out the possibility of a paywall in the near future, Express’ executive director Anant Goenka and Amar’s media statements indicate that the duo have set their sights on generating revenues through native advertising and branded content. At IE Online, branded content is currently being headed by Nitin Sharma. While insiders agree that these are still early days for Express in the digital space (Amar joined the organisation only last year whereas Goenka has been around since five years now), their ambitions aren’t restricted in any manner whatsoever.
Indian Express Holdings & Enterprises Private Limited (IEH) and its various subsidiaries are not listed entities. Therefore, the financials of the companies controlled by the group are not publically available. Nevertheless, a report published recently mentioned that Indian Express Online Media had revenues of Rs 15 crore with a profit of Rs 2.9 crore during the financial year ended March 31, 2016. Given Express’ future plans of foraying beyond media and transforming itself into a “digital company” with interests in e-commerce, one could expect a significant increase in its turnover. In the past few months, IE Digital has attempted to popularise its inventory by placing advertisements in various media declaring it as “the no. 2 digital media group in India” premised on Comscore’s unique visitors data (mobile plus desktop) for the months of December and January.