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Neville Taraporewalla

Director - Sales & Business Development | 30 Apr 2003

What the advertisers are basically looking at today is, can I make my money work better, efficiently and cost effectively. I think Internet allows you to do all of that.

Internet explosion stormed India in the mid-90s. Though there was a dotcom boom, it lasted for only a couple of years. Though many a dotcom closed down, and many dotcom professionals returned to other media, some stuck around.

Dotcoms that are there in the Internet space have well planned strategies and business models in place. And this time around earning a quick buck is the last thing on their mind.

Yahoo.com decided to launch its Indian operations a couple of years back. Proving the rumours that Indian offices of Yahoo would be shut very soon wrong, Yahoo.co.in is gradually spreading its operations by getting involved in a number of mobile initiatives.

Neville Taraporewalla, Director, Sales and Business Development, Yahoo! India talks to Ritu Midha of exchange4media on the evolving dotcom scenario in the country, changing forms of advertising, and the future prospects for dotcom companies, "Who believe in the business they are in".

Q. Dotcom world in India has not really been able to recover from the downturn. Do you foresee a second coming for dotcoms in India?

The whole dotcom rush in 1999-2000 was really a function of what happened in the US. The Internet and technology stocks were overvalued. Lots of people made money. However, when there was a downfall there, it had an impact here.

I don't think it was an appropriate measurement of how the Internet really can perform and how it would benefit consumers in the Indian market. Initially in India, a lot of noise was made about Net. Subsequently, there was an effort by India Info that failed. However, it did make more and more Indian and international players to look at India.

Q. Did the dotcom bust not take place too soon?

Internet business needs to be built over a period of time and returns are there for the better ones. We can really see it in international websites like Yahoo, ebay and amazon. These are sites built on solid foundations with good financial planning. Maybe two years back they were not making profit but today, they have turned around and are making good profits.

The dotcoms that have been in the market are recovering. Market is changing. I am optimistic that there would be a turn around, and we are expecting some levels of turn around this year itself. Every new media has its own gestation period; Internet has a slightly longer gestation period. If you look at it to earn quick bucks and get out, it is not going to work for you.

Q. How is Yahoo.co.in different from other Indian websites?

I think that we are different in the sense that there are a plethora of services that we offer but others not. Yahoo mail is doing excellently well, and we are very powerful on Yahoo messenger as well. Usage of these two in India is quite huge, and we have built the whole mobile property around that. We have moved that community on to the mobile as well.

Our services are very strong and they make us very popular in India. Yahoo is an extremely popular brand. A recent research undertaken by us shows that we are far more popular than many of our competitors.

Q. After Yahoo.co.in started, has the number of registered users on Yahoo from India per se increased?

We have made a conscious effort to try and build a mail audience in India. We believe that it has two benefits - it is lot faster than some other mail services and it also provides additional space. The number of people applying for Yahoo.co.in mail id has definitely increased. We have also done a lot of promotion to increase the number of people using the Indian mail id. We have tried to localise the content as much as possible and our directory also reflects that. We localise our content in various markets across the globe. We differentiate our services very clearly, and it definitely gives us an edge.

Q. Do you see arrival of Alta Vista in the country as a threat?

To be honest, no. Yes, search is an important part of Yahoo, but at the end of the day revenue is driven by clients looking at total solutions. Search is only one part of the solutions. So it is not a threat, but we are certainly aware of their India launch.

Q. Alta Vista's communities are pretty strong...

Yahoo has a number of communities; we have also built communities for Indians. We are into building communities. Yahoo itself is a community. We have something called Yahooligans. That is a community by itself. The point is that globally Yahoo is much larger as a community than Altavista. Even in Indian scenario, Yahoo.co.in's penetration is far higher than Alta Vista.

Q. One keeps hearing rumours about Yahoo winding up its India operations? Is this a case of smoke without fire?

We have restructured our business to suit the opportunities that are there in the Indian market. I think we have done a pretty neat job of mapping the opportunities, and mapping our resources to those opportunities. We did it to make it efficient and profitable, every company that is aiming high would restructure if required.

Q. Moving on to a broader topic, Internet experts have been talking of death of the banner for a long time now -but it is still alive and kicking. Why, in your opinion, banners are still used by the advertisers?

There has been a lot of shift away from banner. Banner would continue to be there, but there is a whole lot of innovation around it. Creative units have changed; they have changed to DHTML banners, which attract very clear attention. A lot happens within the frame of banner itself. Yahoo has been ahead of its times in building and creating platforms which would enable its advertisers connect better with its users.

Yahoo's biggest assets are its users. If we fail to monatise these users by offering them to our advertisers, then we have not done our job, that is why total solutions package. We have built over a period of time newer technologies for marketers and new targeting tools. What the advertisers are basically looking at today is, can I make my money work better, efficiently and cost effectively. I think Internet allows you to do all of that. Our targeting tools allow us to reduce wastage for the client and offer him the target audience he is looking for. We also have something called fusion targeting.

Q. You are looking beyond demographics…

Absolutely. We can provide target audience interested in a particular kind of content. In US, we have created a category called mother care and it can be targeted by all the brands wanting to talk to them - for instance baby care, household items, and toys. Fusion is actually a group of users and then we identify users who are searching for these kinds of things and we classify them in categories. I am building a category of all the people from across countries looking for anything related to India, and then I can tell an ICICI or a Citi Bank that I will target all the NRIs on the network who are looking for this kind of information.

Q. Has it already started?

Yes, we have already started and the response is good.

Q. Do you sell advertising on Yahoo on cost per acquisition basis?

No medium sells on cost per acquisition basis, with a possible exception of Direct Marketing in a few cases. A medium' job is to bring the consumer to the message. Whether the consumer responds to your message depends on several other factors as well. These include creative, product category, product quality, and so on and so forth. So to answer your question, we do not sell on cost per acquisition basis.

Q. Don't you think Internet fraternity in India needs to educate advertisers and media planners in a big way?

You bet we do. I have been in the Internet business since 1996, and I am still playing the role of an evangelist. A lot needs to be done as far as media planners are concerned, and we are hoping that some day they will actually make Internet a part of their overall media plan. People don't really know how Internet can be used. In the next couple of months, Yahoo India plans to play a major role there. The main aim here would be to promote the industry. Of course, we do hope that it would benefit Yahoo India as well. For Indian Internet industry to grow, the top players need to get together and create an industry norm.

Q. Is anything happening on that front?

There are some efforts that are going around. But it has still not been crystallized.

Q. What product categories do you believe benefit from advertising on dotcoms?

Till now mostly financial categories have been advertising on the net in a big way - banks, credit cards. Having said that, we also have computer peripherals, telecom, mobile phone advertisers, and FMCG advertisers. So I can't think of any category that is not advertising with us. It is only that they need to increase their spend on the Net.

If we can make them believe that we can deliver a certain audience to them, I don't see any reason why they won't try the medium.

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