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Friday, 22 September 2006 06:13

Yahoo!, Google and MSN serenade Indian users

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ImageThree Internet media giants – Yahoo! Google and MSN - this week have revealed their plans to woo the Indian masses with local content.

Recognizing that they cannot grow faster than the overall Internet market, if they don’t cater to local needs, the Big Three are charting out new routes to increase its hold on the Indian masses.

On Tuesday, Google’s director – product management, from Mountain View, California, Deep Nishar, who was in Bangalore said, “At Google, we have put in a lot of instruments to gather facts and feedback. For our Indian customers we are building a number of localized products. At this point of time I cannot reveal what we are going to launch but our focus, for sure, is local users.”

On Wednesday in Mumbai, Yahoo!’s chief operating officer, Daniel Rosenweig, in his maiden visit to India said, “India’s contribution to our $5.3 billion global revenue may be less than significant today, but we are “very satisfied” with the Indian operations. Low Internet penetration in the country is the chief dampener for the company. But, with a population of over a billion people, this is a market nobody can take lightly.”

On Thursday in New Delhi, MSN announced the launch of MSN Hindi and four other regional language portals. “The new languages feature on Windows Live Messenger. We will also continue our drive to provide MSN services and products to our users in their regional languages. This initiative is just the beginning in providing users with features which bring them closer to their loved ones” said Jaspreet Bindra, country head, MSN India and Windows Live.


Today, the key driver for these Internet companies is slurping more local content onto their offerings.

“In India, connectivity along with language is hampering growth. We would be soon be launching content in local language, to expand our user base”, adds George Zacharias, head of Yahoo! India operations.

A strong R&D push in India development centers

Although Yahoo!’s Rosenweig did not announce any multi-million dollar investment in India, he said the company is significantly ramping up its operations in India, a top investment destination for the company.

The company’s engineering centre in Bangalore, the largest outside the US, is 800- people strong, and will be 1,000 by the year-end, representing one-tenth of Yahoo!’s global strength. “Initially, it was strictly a back-end set-up. Today, it is part of our global engineering set up, leading in innovation. In future, there would be complete products being developed out of India,” Rosenweig said.


The same story is repeated at the Google development center in Bangalore and the Microsoft India Development Center (MSIDC) in Hyderabad.

Google Bangalore is its first R&D centre outside of the US and its charter is to innovate, implement, and launch new Google technologies and products for the global audience.

Says Google’s Nishar: “The work here touches many fundamental areas of computer science, including information retrieval, distributed systems, machine learning, data mining, theoretical computer science, statistics and user interfaces.”

At MSIDC too, a number of incubation ideas are under development which span different businesses of the company, including MSN global products like MSN toolbar beta, MSN connector for Outlook, MSN supportability reporting.


The magnetic lure of the mobile

The rapid penetration of the mobile phones in India is definitely a sweet spot for the Web majors.

The fact that India has more mobile phone connections than PCs and the fact that 4-5 million new subscribers are being added every month (to a 120- million user base), is certainly not lost on them.

Google will soon be launching SMS-based search for India users, a service now available in the US.
 
Yahoo! Mobile is becoming popular. But Rosenweig would not comment on it here in India but said that the company is entering into alliances with handset manufacturers and service providers. “We realise that for many, their first point of contact with Yahoo! would be their mobile devices rather than the computer,” he added.

Microsoft is also firming up plans for its MSN Mobile, yet another communications service offered in various countries. “India is a relevant market and we are evaluating delivering all of our live services through the mobile platform,” says a MSIDC spokesperson.

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