Rediff.com India Ltd., a Rs116-crore online news and entertainment company, on 10 July launched a multi-media content sharing platform called iShare. The portal, which went live on 9 July, is designed to serve as a social and professional networking tool where users will also be able to share music, videos and pictures. “It’s like combining properties of Youtube and Orkut,” said Ajit Balakrishnan, chairman and CEO, Rediff.com, referring to the two global successes in the social networking space today.
iShare Users will be able to upload pictures and videos taken on mobile phones, digicam, digital camcorders and music from MP3 player such as ipods. “iShare will serve as a catalyst for young users and professionals to connect and interact,” said Manish Agarwal, vice president-marketing, rediff.com.
Rediff’s portal called rediff.com currently boasts a user base of around eight million a month and it expects a large part of this audience to move to iShare. “Once the web site gets enough traffic, we will start attracting advertisers,” said Balakrishnan, adding: “Rediff.com has a lot of leading advertisers on board and we will try to push them to iShare,” said Balakrishnan.
Rediff.com has already tied up with Zee TV, the flagship channel of Zee Entertainment Limited for content generation. Under the memorandum of understanding signed between the two parties, aspiring participants for the channel’s popular programme Sa Re Ga Ma Pa will have the opportunity to audition by uploading their performance on iShare.
“This initiative will provide the audience a new entry option for Zee TV’s popular singing talent hunt show,” said Tarun Mehra, head, marketing, Zee TV. “While we are not sharing any revenue with them at this point, it is something we might consider in the future, depending on the popularity of the initiative,” he added.
Rediff, however, is not planning to invest heavily in promoting the site. “As of now, the initiative will rely solely on word-of-mouth to get the news out to potential users and will not spend much on media promotions,” said Agarwal.
iShare is one of the few recent social networking ventures launched to capitalise on Indian internet audience’s growing interest in social networking websites. According to Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) the current base of internet users stands at around 42 million. According to the India Online Report 2007, 44% of online traffic is visiting the net for social networking.
While leading sites like Orkut.com, Facebook.com and hi5.com are immensely popular, local sites like bigadda.com, bharatstudent.com and desimartini.com are also gaining ground. These web sites are no longer platforms for people to make new friends but have become fertile grounds for e-commerce as well as professional netowrking opportunities. “The growth in online activity in India is exponential because social networking has become a mainstream activity and is no longer for kids and teenagers anymore,” said Rajesh Lalwani, founder, Blogworks Consulting, a communication and marketing solutions company.
Advertisers are also taking note of the growing popularity of social networking. Reebok India Ltd, for instance, spent 30% of its advertising budget for the ICC Cricket World Cup on online platforms like youtube.com and the company claims to have got 2,000 hits within 72 hours of it putting up its commercial on the site.