Bangalore: Internet giants AOL and Yahoo Inc. are introducing new upgrades of email and messenger products in India, even before their launch in their US home market as they look to add subscribers in what is emerging as the fastest growing market for Internet and email customers in the world.
When AOL launched its India portal in April, it offered local users first an upgraded email service, before expanding it to users in the US and Europe. Indian email users of AOL may soon have the company’s messenger service integrated to chat with their friends, similar to Google chat, ahead of consumers in other countries. AOL is a unit of Time Warner Inc.
“Working with the development team, just like the Webmail, I would be more than happy to introduce other products here first,” said Kevin Conroy, executive vice-president for products at AOL, in a recent interview.
AOL, he said, aims to be one of the big three Internet companies in India by offering new community products, where content is generated by users, local language content, video and services such as search and mail on mobile phones.
Yahoo, AOL’s rival, launched first in India its ‘OurCity’, a portal type service that aggregates information such as events, photos, blogs and news on a city. The Internet firm also offered first the unlimited space to store music, video and text files for its email users in the country.
The India-first trend, an internet expert said, shows how important and lucrative the Indian market is perceived by major Internet companies such as AOL, Yahoo and Google Inc.
“This (market) will grow very rapidly in the near future with the companies vying for market share,” said Kalyan Banga, a Kolkata-based analyst who tracks the Internet space at researcher AMI-Partners.
India’s online population is expected to cross to over 100 million by March 2008, up from the current active user base of 38 million, predicts trade body Internet and Mobile Association of India.
The country’s online advertising business is small—at Rs218 crore for the year to March—but is growing annually at over 50%. Yahoo, Google and MSN from Microsoft Corp. have vied with local Internet firms Rediff.com Ltd and Sify Ltd in wooing users to garner a chunk of this growing online advertising spend.