Vinay Chhajlani, Chairman and founder of webdunia.com is an inspiration to many new media professionals. He started a Hindi portal at a time when even English web portals found it difficult to stay afloat in the face of the dreaded 'dot com bust.' Having weathered the storm, he talks with Balendu Sharma Dadhich on the shape of things to come in Hindi Internet space.
Question- Almost ten years have passed since first Hindi portal was launched. However, there are few Hindi Internet projects that are financially successful. Do you still foresee a surge in Indian language portals and other web based services? How successful and durable would they be?
Vinay Chhajlani – Yes, you are right in a way that when we started ten years back, the market was not just ready. However things have changed pretty fast in past two years. Hindi content online is poised for a big growth and it will still take another couple of years to reach on fast track. For Hindi Internet projects to be financially viable, organizations need to continue investing in making the user experience much better. We are not there yet. So it is still time before we think of reaping the fruits.
Question- At a time when Hindi and other Indian languages are dominating the Print and Electronic media, why a similar trend is absent on Internet? Is the Internet model of media going to be vastly different from its other counterparts or a revolutionary change is expected to take place in this space after a few years?
Vinay Chhajlani – I will answer this question in two parts.
A. For Internet medium to compete with what is happening in language print media, it will still take some time. Languages will definitely dominate the market and will be ahead of English. Be it Print, Electronic or online media. Right now hardly 5% of Indian population is net connected. From those percentage of Hindi and other language users is lesser. Wait for that to grow and you will see.
B. Yes we can expect revolutionary change in next few years in language Internet space. Revolutionary in the sense that lot of things will happen in a very short span of time. Wait for that 5% penetration to grow bigger, and things will happen.
Question- Of late, we have been witnessing a process of user consolidation in Indian languages Internet space. This has resulted in new media houses joining the bandwagon with their new web based projects. Is the market size in this segment good enough and growing at a reasonable pace to accommodate, say, 10-12 large Hindi portals?
Vinay Chhajlani – I will not go by numbers. But yes, there is definitely a big segment that exists for Hindi Internet portals and there is a scope of multiple players as the scope here is much bigger. If 10 different 24 hours news channels and 10 good Hindi dailies are still not enough to cater to the respective audience they cater to for Hindi language news, imagine what we need in the Internet space? Here it is not just news, but lot of information and applications that caters to not just Indian, but global population.
Question- What are the biggest challenges facing New Media companies in India? Do you believe you have generally overcome them? If yes, how did it take place? What advice do you have for the breed of ambitious new entrepreneurs busy launching this or that web-based service almost on a daily basis?
Vinay Chhajlani – I think the challenges are many. High PC prices and broadband not being available easily are the biggest hurdles to begin with. We also have no magic to overcome these two hurdles but need to just wait and keep working on creating, updating applications that will help the users, once the hurdles are over and this explodes. Things are definitely better than what they were a couple of years back. However there is still a lot to happen. We will have to patiently work to make it happen. It is good to see new applications and utilities getting launched everyday. This will only harness the environment that we all need to create. Those, which have potential to make a users life better, will only survive. Ultimately user is the best judge. He is smart enough to pick up the right and the best thing for him/her.
Question- How do you sum up the state of New media in India, especially the language based one? Do you consider New Media to put up a serious challenge before the conventional media, or you anticipate a durable and realistic convergence taking place there?
Vinay Chhajlani – I think New media is still in the state of defining itself. It is still evolving. It will take some time before this finally matures. I think it will be a durable and realistic convergence. All other conventional media has already started establishing net presence. They have already realized that this is complementary to what they are already doing. So the convergence has already begun. It will become stronger in times to come and the net medium; specially languages will eventually lead the way. Languages on the net have lot to explore. What we have seen till now is very less of what is stored. The immense potential that the new media carries is due to the bondage of languages and technology. This will change net users life in times to come.