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Pankaj Jain

President & COO | 12 Oct 2007

When we stared out we had a different name for each language portal, which posed a challenge when it came to unified branding. So we deliberated and decided that we need to have one brand, one name, hence each portal has the name Webdunia. We migrated our email service from ePatra to Webdunia Mail, portal properties like Webulagam.com to tamil.webdunia.com.

President & Chief Operating Officer of Webdunia, Pankaj Jain is credited with creating the largest multi-lingual property in Indian languages. Having pioneered portals and email services in 11 Indian languages, www.webdunia.com now offers language localization and language technology solutions on PC, wireless and web platforms.

Having started his career with the Webdunia group in the early 90s, Jain has held several key positions. His skills were honed on global exposure, handling consulting assignments for financial services clients of the group software company, Diaspark Inc. He also headed the offshore development centre of Diaspark Inc. for many years before taking on the leadership of Webdunia.

He is a perfectionist about client deliveries and quality. His most exciting consulting assignment, he recalls, was heading a leading telecommunication firm's mobile application development effort. Known for spurring his teams into achieving new technological breakthroughs, his current aspiration is to make Webdunia India's largest portal. It has become a leader in its chosen space: creating technology for multi-lingual software for its own portals, and as a service for other websites and IT companies. Here is Jain in conversation with Pallavi Goorha of exchange4media, talking about Webdunia’s branding strategy. Excerpts:

Q. How has been the journey been for Webdunia till now?

Webdunia started with the dream of IT-enabling every Indian when we launched our Indian language portals in 1999-2000. In subsequent years, we ventured into a new domain – services: we provided localization and technology services to Indian and global customers. That strengthened our technology capability and we built a repository of robust IPR. 2007 is a landmark year for us: we almost doubled our reach to nine languages, with the potential to touch 500 million Indians who are comfortable communicating in their own language. It is a great feeling for the 500-strong Webdunia team to see traffic to the portals growing continuously. Advertisers are seeing enhanced value out of their association with us. And it gives tremendous boost to our tech team that our own indigenous technology is being sought after by leading technology creators. I am not being immodest when I say that “There is a little bit of Webdunia technology or content in most large portals out of India”. The early successes have given us the confidence to aspire to be the number one multi-lingual portal out of India.

Q. How much will you invest in brand building over the next three years?

Webdunia’s latest technology upgrade involved an investment of 1200 person-months of effort over the last 18 months. We moved to a single brand, Webdunia, and a unified and contemporary look and feel for all our nine portals. We unveiled a multi media campaign involving press, outdoor and television. Webdunia plans to invest about Rs. 25 crore over the next three years in brand building and upgrading our technology. What makes us unique is that, while focusing on technology and brand building, we have also upped our investments in content creation, because we believe that is our core product, for which users seek us out.

Q. What were the challenges in building the Webdunia brand?

The Internet’s origin and nature were such that early adopters were English-speaking. Slowly a user segment started using regional languages, but more out of curiosity. So creating a brand following was a challenge in the early days. We now see a significant section of internet users give first preference to their native language; hence it is easier to target them. Increased Internet access has undoubtedly eased the process. Webdunia is committed to whetting their appetite for content in a language they are proud of. The challenge is in the choice of media vehicles from those that address diverse Indian language users.

Q. Webdunia has provided multi-lingual know-how to Rediff, Sify and greeting card technology to Indiatimes. Which other portals will you focus on in the future?

Thanks to the pioneering work we did over the last 8-9 years, we are the leaders in the multi-lingual software space. Any portal that wants to target a part or the entire 800-million strong regional language speaking population will have to use sophisticated software. As pioneers in this field we are the first choice. Many more portals are seeking out our technology and multi-lingual content. It’s hard for me to share the specific names.

Q. In a recent interview to e4m you had said Webdunia plans to launch a multiple language blog by November this year. When are you launching this multiple blog application?

We are on schedule for the soft launch of the multiple language blogs. We will share the launch dates in a few weeks.

Q. Apart from “Aastha and Andhvishwas” and “Dharamyatra” channels, which other TV channels will be visible on the Webdunia portal?

We are doing a detailed analysis of requests from Webdunia users and will be identifying new sections in the coming quarters.

Q. Recently Webdunia unveiled the next version of nine language portals, and email in 11 languages. Into which other language do you plan to foray in the future?

I am proud to be part of a country where 415 languages are spoken. Our dream is to have portals that do justice to this diversity. However, to achieve that we need much more effort and enough users. So, we decided to first cover the most widely spoken languages in India, which cover almost 80% of population.

Q. What are Webdunia’s future plans?

We are very clear that we aspire to be India’s No.1 multi-lingual portal. We want to ensure that we provide each and every internet service to regional language users. Language should not be a barrier for them to be part of the worldwide web. Webdunia would be making each of its language portals as rich as possible in content and appeal. We will come up with more interactive channels where users can contribute beneficially.

Q. You recently rebranded the look and feel of the Webdunia portal. What was the process behind it?

When we stared out we had a different name for each language portal, which posed a challenge when it came to unified branding. So we deliberated and decided that we need to have one brand, one name, hence each portal has the name Webdunia. We migrated our email service from ePatra to Webdunia Mail, portal properties like Webulagam.com to tamil.webdunia.com.

Q. How many hits do you receive on a weekly and monthly basis?

Soon after we revamped Webdunia in mid-2007, the page views have been growing month on month. We hope to raise our 60 million page views mark even higher through continuous efforts to improve content and technology.

Q. Who are your competitors?

Currently, there is no one who has presence in nine languages like Webdunia, though there are players who have one- or two-language portals. So we have a different competitor in each language. Also, we have different players in different categories. For the Malayalam service, it may be Malayala Manorial; in the search category it may be Google.

Q. What is the scope of Indian languages besides Hindi in India?

The top eight Indian languages after Hindi account for 400 million users. Assuming that half of them are literate, and half of those have access to Internet, it makes for a huge universe. Beyond numbers, every language has emotions attached, when you communicate in a language you can call your very own.

Q. Do you plan to foray into international languages?

We are already doing localization work in several international languages. We will continue to invest in the technology business to create software components into which companies such as Adobe can plug in to extend their core functionality to other languages.

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