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»An old Indian media web site or portal, if you will, went through a redesign recently. Once counted among the heavy hitters, it even listed on Nasdaq, the site had been facing an existential crisis over the last few years. When it debuted in the ‘90s it was a popular destination for Indian news junkies. Set up by a non-news company, it was obvious that its reporting prowess was thin. But it had a small editorial team, which wrote well and nurtured lively columns. Some news, some good writing and lots of sharp opinions made the site hum.

But online news is generally seen as a small play for ambitious companies. So, the site started changing. It added email, ecommerce, social networking features, group buying, anything, that became the fad of the day. Some of the initiatives like the email clicked, though most failed to produce enough tail wind to give it a good lift. Email was a traffic generator for a few years; but it would always be difficult for a non-tech company to compete with the likes of Google, which offered the same service.

With the latest redesign it seeks to go back to its roots by giving more space to the media side. E-commerce gets downplayed while almost the whole of the home page is covered with news photos and headlines. There is also a real-time news section, where it aggregates news from other media sites.

Whether the U-turn helps it regain momentum or not is a matter of opinion. The experience of this site underscores the challenges faced by dotcoms, particularly in India. In China, the language insulates the country’s dotcoms from the onslaught of global companies such as Google and Facebook, allowing them to build local variants of sites successful elsewhere. In contrast, any company, which becomes a hit internationally, is just a few months or a year or two away from marching into India. It is perhaps better to keep your windows open than to raise barriers.

But the local dotcoms instead of finding local opportunities they can tap, try to copy trends, which eventually turn them into pale imitations. When email was rage, every Indian dotcom offered it; as e-commerce took off, they all logged in, jobs and matrimonial sites happened, they joined the queue, group buying looked like the future, they also ran. If there is anything that clicks online, it is originality; most Indian dotcoms have failed to get it. Even the redesign of the site we discussed above is ‘heavily inspired’ by Instagram.
DHNS

»An old Indian media web site or portal, if you will, went through a redesign recently. Once counted among the heavy hitters, it even listed on Nasdaq, the site had been facing an existential crisis over the last few years. When it debuted in the ‘90s it was a popular destination for Indian news junkies. Set up by a non-news company, it was obvious that its reporting prowess was thin. But it had a small editorial team, which wrote well and nurtured lively columns. Some news, some good writing and lots of sharp opinions made the site hum.

But online news is generally seen as a small play for ambitious companies. So, the site started changing. It added email, ecommerce, social networking features, group buying, anything, that became the fad of the day. Some of the initiatives like the email clicked, though most failed to produce enough tail wind to give it a good lift. Email was a traffic generator for a few years; but it would always be difficult for a non-tech company to compete with the likes of Google, which offered the same service.

With the latest redesign it seeks to go back to its roots by giving more space to the media side. E-commerce gets downplayed while almost the whole of the home page is covered with news photos and headlines. There is also a real-time news section, where it aggregates news from other media sites.

Whether the U-turn helps it regain momentum or not is a matter of opinion. The experience of this site underscores the challenges faced by dotcoms, particularly in India. In China, the language insulates the country’s dotcoms from the onslaught of global companies such as Google and Facebook, allowing them to build local variants of sites successful elsewhere. In contrast, any company, which becomes a hit internationally, is just a few months or a year or two away from marching into India. It is perhaps better to keep your windows open than to raise barriers.

But the local dotcoms instead of finding local opportunities they can tap, try to copy trends, which eventually turn them into pale imitations. When email was rage, every Indian dotcom offered it; as e-commerce took off, they all logged in, jobs and matrimonial sites happened, they joined the queue, group buying looked like the future, they also ran. If there is anything that clicks online, it is originality; most Indian dotcoms have failed to get it. Even the redesign of the site we discussed above is ‘heavily inspired’ by Instagram.

DHNS

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