Home >Industry >Internet firms look to students for product ideas and growth

Bangalore: The world’s largest Internet search companyGoogle Inc. is looking for the next killer application on the Web and it is looking to engineering students in India to build one.

The search giant has launched “product prodigy", a competition that allows

Game on: Exterior view of Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. The company is holding a competition for building the next killer Internet application, with winners getting to visit the headquarters.

The winners will get a cash award of Rs20 lakh and be invited to Googleplex, the headquarters of Google in Mountain View, California to demonstrate their invention. It could later be launched as a service for users either by the winning team or by the Internet giant. 

Google isn’t new to the contests game. The company has previously conducted “code jams" or software writing competitions for programmers, and contests to unearth people with good English language skills in an effort to find employees and attract users in India, among the world’s fastest growing Internet markets.

India’s online population is expected to cross to more than 100 million by March 2008, up from the active user base of over 38 million, predicts Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), which tracks Internet usage pattern in the country.

“Our products are our biggest advertisement for us," says Manoj Varghese, human resources director at Google India Pvt. Ltd, the local subsidiary of the search giant.

Meanwhile, Google’s rival Yahoo Inc. and home-grown Rediff.com India Ltd are looking at young, technically adept people between the ages of 16 and 24 as potential users.

IAMAI estimates that more than a fourth of Internet ussers in India are in this age group.

“The companies want stickiness from their users. The only way is to catch them young," says Subho Ray, president of IAMAI.

Rediff is looking to popularize iShare, a social networking platform that allows users to generate their own content among people in this segment.

“They (youth) are the most prized consumers. We do everything to engage with them," says Manish Agarwal, vice- president for marketing at Rediff.com, the India focused Internet portal.

And Yahoo engages students in schools and colleges by allowing them to participate in Yahoo answers, the interactive discussion forum.

More than 30,000 students answered a query by former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on Yahoo answers.

“It is the ability to connect with the right set of products to the right set of users. We value that," says Sandeep Srivastava, director, search at Yahoo Web Services India Ltd.

Zapak Digital Entertainment Ltd, part of the Anil Ambani- led Reliance ADA group, has built a user base of more than three million in three months, engaging young people by holding contests in college festivals in Mumbai and other ­cities.

“You have to engage them in their own way and ensure that the youth stay with you," says Arun Mehra, chief marketing officer of Zapak.

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