Chennai-based online listings and community portal Sulekha.com is ramping up operations for a pan-India presence over the next few months. Smart Information Worldwide, Inc., the company that owns and operates Sulekha.com, set up sales and marketing offices in Mumbai and New Delhi this month, and plans to be in eight metros, including Pune, Ahmedabad and Kolkata, by next year. The expansion exercise comes ahead of a likely listing on domestic stock exchanges by 2009.
“By end-2008, we would be looking at a way to earn returns back to our investors,” said Satya Prabhakar, founder-CEO, Sulekha.com.
The portal offers three key services at present—city-wise business listings, classified ad space and a blogging platform—which will now be integrated to grow the business in the local commerce space. For example, if a user is looking for a one-bedroom apartment in Bandra, Mumbai, the business listings will show him listings of available apartments; the classified section will show related services such as schools, electricians and plumbers within Bandra; the blogging platform will display user recommendations of restaurants or movie halls in that area.
The company’s headcount has grown rapidly in the last nine months—up from 100 in December last year to 420 now. A majority of the hires have been for sales, to go out into the field and collect data for its listings. It will focus on real estate, auto and job listings. “We want to plug into the tier II job market, including stenographers and medical representatives, which other job portals are not looking at,” said B. Sridhar, director, global branding and marketing, at Sulekha. For instance, it has received online advertisements from Dubai seeking to hire an Indian cook.
Unlike its competitors in these spaces, such as eBay Motors in auto or Naukri.com in jobs, Sulekha does not enable transactions. “Our revenue model is purely ad-supported,” said Prabhakar. About 45% of its revenue comes from India, the rest from the US.
In the long term, the company wants to set up operations in international markets with a significant Indian population, such as the UK, Dubai and Singapore.