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Dilip Venkatraman

CEO | 22 Dec 2004

Pugmarks is one of the first interactive companies in India to provide interactivity to a large amount of media houses and other people who wanted to get on to the Internet which is the first truly interactive medium in the world. Now interactivity has become multi-dimensional with SMS, GPRS, WAP, CDMA, and interactive voice. We are getting into total interactivity where we will offer all these services.

Dilip Venkatraman has always had a fascination for technology and this helped him take over as the Chief Executive of Pugmarks InterWeb Pvt. Ltd. Pugmarks offers sophisticated Internet solutions like managed hosting of web servers, network management, co-location, application servers, database servers, e-mail servers in standalone or multi-tiered or clustered architecture basis.

With his varied experience and acumen, Venkatraman brings to Pugmarks over a decade of experience with projects like creating the '2424' SMS platform for the India Today Group in 2002, synergistic co-branded events/programmes with Hindustan Times, Hindustan, Mid-Day, Outlook, Dainik Jagran, etc.

Prior to joining Pugmarks, Venkatraman was with Zee where he was initially the Head of Brand Management for Zee News and was responsible for repackaging and repositioning Zee. Subsequently, he was assigned responsibility for Zee’s DTH business. He was also the man behind Zee News’ wireless GSM-led tickers. In an interview with Sakshi Talwar of exchange4media, Venkatraman shares his views on the increasing usage of Internet in interactivity, communication, marketing and other facets of business. Excerpts:

Q. Can you explain the nature of the business of Pugmarks? How different is it from an ISP?

Pugmarks is by and large a managed hosting services company. ISP gives you connectivity to Internet, which is predominantly the job of an ISP, whereas a hosting company gives cyber space to companies to park their content. Hosting is enabling content providers to put their content up so that people can enter through the ISP and view it. We not only host but we also give managed hosting, i.e., for high traffic sites we do back up, load balancing and so on. They only keep uploading their content, whereas functions like application, monitoring and maintaining the well-being of servers against virus attacks, etc., are monitored by us.

On the other hand, we are getting into the space of interactivity. Pugmarks was one of the first interactive companies in India to provide interactivity to a large number of media houses and those who wanted to get on to the Internet which is the first truly interactive medium in the world. Today interactivity has become multi-dimensional with SMS, GPRS, WAP, CDMA, and interactive voice. We are getting into total interactivity where we will offer all these services. Interestingly, even ring tones, video clippings downloadable on phones, interactive voice-based services, all these reside on servers and use the Internet. As we have already been in the business, it makes sense for us to provide total solutions and move up the value chain.

Q. Who are your target clientele?

We are targeting brands as interactivity, by and large, is a brand function. Hyundai Motors, Seagram, NIIT, etc., are some of the clients we handle.

Q. How do you facilitate B2B transactions?

We have hosting as the main business. We also do front-end work, like design, development and applications. We are good in portal management. Deccan Herald, Malayala Manorama, Music Today, Indian Express, Tribune, Dainik Bhaskar – they were all hosted by Pugmarks. We have been around for eight years. In the initial days, we had to do lot of hand holding and teaching what Internet is.

Q. In an e-commerce scenario, where does Pugmarks fit into the scheme of things?

The actual transaction happens where you buy things. That is very significant if you have products that can be bought over the Internet. The penetration of Internet and mobile phones is going up. For instance, today the Internet can also be accessed through mobile. So the amount of people coming on to the Internet is going up. The Internet boom is slowly revolutionising the country with cable and DSL connections providing Internet speeds of 128 kbps to 256 kbps. In the early days, for 64 kbps we used to pay a couple of lakh of rupees; today it’s only Rs 1,000 per month. This clearly shows that some amount of broadband Internet has arrived. When you have this kind of high speed Internet service available, your propensity to surf is much more and the volume of information you imbibe is also much more.

Secondly, broadband is also going to be available through cable, especially through telecom providers like BSNL and Reliance. That is going to happen when they have a huge optic fibre network all around the country. And if that becomes an entry point to the Internet, then it will add a different set of customers who don’t have to go through the minimum threshold of having a computer. You might be able to surf information using your remote on your set-top box, which gives you access to cable. It brings s new set of people to the Internet. As the Internet penetration increases, there would be a need for more content providers as content creation and Internet penetration go hand-in-hand.

Q. Which of your products/services is the largest revenue generator?

Hosting services is the major contributor.

Q. For B2B and CRM clients, do you simply provide infrastructure/technological support or content solutions as well?

In some cases, we provide content solutions as that is the requirement of the client. And to enable the client we become the one-stop-shop. We take total responsibility for content, design, hosting, etc.

Q. How do you deal with the problem of spamming?

We are launching a product called e-securitas, which is an anti-spam gateway solution. Without investing in hardware or software you are able to remove virus by pointing your mails to a particular server of ours and it goes to a file for cleaning process which includes checking for objectionable phrases, file extensions, and then it gives filtered mails. The advantage of this kind of a solution is that you don’t need to be hosted with this. Secondly, you don’t have to do much in terms of programming. When you do hardware or software solution, you are consuming some amount of computing resources by processing the spam and then declaring it as spam. So it still occupies some space in your hard drive and some amount of processor time. In this case, all this happens outside your system, so it does not affect speed. Other than that, firewall protection and virus solution is given to people depending on their need. It is more client driven.

Q. What is next on Pugmark’s agenda?

Pugmarks is moving from the Internet space to interactive space to total interactivity for which we are developing an intelligent platform. We are working on our platform called TIIP – the Total Interactivity and Intelligence Platform. On another front, we are providing outsourced services to third party clients for managed hosting to the level that some of these support functions include manned voice or call agents. We provide support to our clients using chat, e-mail and voice. We have an interesting model to offer to brand managers and large corporates and marketers. We have a totally outsourced model available where we handle everything – right from content creation to design to managing the server and uploading it. Not only do we enable the services, we also act as interactive consultant.

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