Marketing analysis of internet portal Sulekha.com

Sulekha. com is a groundbreaking site for multiple reasons, one of them being that, it is a totally member-contributed website; the vast majority of its 500, 000+ pages of content are contributed by thousands of Indians from over 50 countries.

It is most beneficial destination to blog, to interact and make friends. Sulekha has blogs, social networking, classifieds, events, yellow pages, among other services and has definitely come quite a distance in a short period of time. It's the leading provider of integrated online event promotion and management, membership and fundraising services to offline organizations.

It has served more than 500 advertisers in more than 10 business domains and helped meet their marketing and sales objectives. Sulekha has become a highly sought-after online advertising medium because of its unparalleled reach, unprecedented targeting (by age, gender, city, sub-ethnicity and income) and integrated offline/online promotions.

Today, Sulekha serves an exponentially growing online and mobile member base of 6. 2 million in over 50 cities in India, US and elsewhere as the:

(a)Most popular online/mobile provider of YP business serp's to users and business brings about small to medium business advertisers and merchants

(b)Most popular online/mobile provider of classifieds in the broadest range of categories

(c)Most popular social media site offering largest events/opinions/reviews in targeted domains.

More Indians use Sulekha. com than some other source - online or offline - to find local businesses and interact and transact with the other person for the broadest selection of needs all across India, US and elsewhere.

Sulekha. com's assets include:

The largest report on general Classifieds.

The most comprehensive and accurate Yellow Pages business listings in India.

The largest quantity of Small to Medium Business advertisers in the online/mobile space.

The greatest base of member-generated content between Indian sites that spurs local commerce.

A advanced and scalable mobile/online platform that serves millions of users on a regular basis.

Sulekha. com continues to rapidly expand its user and customer base both through its sales force and through an evergrowing network of prominent alliances with major mobile and online partners such as Reliance, Vodafone, Airtel, Spice, Sify and others. making the utilization of Classifieds and Local Search easy and ubiquitous.

Every business that is listed on Sulekha yellow Pages has its own profile page, where in people can add information about this business, pictures, work hours, map coordinates and contact details. In the profile page visitors are given a choice to either call the business enterprise or send a free of charge text message to the business enterprise. Visitors can at anytime save the info about the business on the phone from the web site.

Since its inception Sulekha is rolling out many applications for mobile platforms and for social networking platforms such as Facebook. The Facebook applications add a restaurant finder and a credit card applicatoin to flick through Classifieds. They also have developed an application for the Nokia N97 that allows the user to flick through all the assistance offered by the business.

It is a fully funded company, headquartered in Austin (Texas, US) and with businesses in US and India. The website has not advertised on TV in India up to now once we always felt there will be a lot of wastage in reaching an audience that's not yet on online. Sulekha. com has been named one of the most notable Six Largest Internet Media Portals in India and a pioneer in marrying community and commerce in a distinctive manner.

BUSINESS MODEL

Launching a Web-based start-up had to be either an act of sheer bravado or the result of a carefully conceived business plan. Satya Prabhakar was banking on the latter, however in effect, he match the former category. For, the dotcom bubble had burst and portals were not considered the promised path to success. Yet, Prabhakar persisted. .

He quit his well-paying job with AT&T in america, devote his savings and investments worth $25, 000, and setup sulekha. com at 37. Sulekha was a dream of setting up an network for Indians worldwide that took form when he was employed, and the conviction of its success saw him actually write the code for the website. He turned his vocation to occupation despite the risks involved and the misgivings of people around him. "When I'm 55, I don't want to regret devoid of done something, " he justifies his move.

It's also his business philosophy. He attributes it to the concept of 'regret minimisation framework' coined by Jeff Bezos, the founder of amazon. com. Another influence for Prabhakar has been Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, a tale about following one's dream and learning what is with the capacity of. "What's the worst which could have happened?" he asks. "If this venture had failed, I knew I possibly could have gone back to a job. " For the family's responsibility, Prabhakar was unfazed because he had kept aside sufficient funds to last them at least per year.

True to his conviction, Sulekha soon took on the life of its. The next logical step was to set up a space where buyers and sellers could meet. Therefore the classifieds version of Sulekha was born and it took about two-and-a-half years for the site to break even. About an year or so after this, Prabhakar began thinking about taking the business to India. By 2005, he previously moved back home and setup headquarters in Chennai.

Though the business model for the e-venture was set up, India threw up several unique challenges for Sulekha. The sheer size of the populace was daunting. The other, more critical, aspect involved convincing small businesses that the web had not been necessarily a parallel universe, but that maybe it's a robust tool if it was exploited in the right manner. So, Prabhakar tweaked his model to suit the country-instead of a regular classifieds site, he sold Sulekha purely as a mechanism for gathering business leads. Which means that a little business can advertise on Sulekha with the assurance of a certain range of leads being generated. A user (buyer) who goes to Sulekha is given the option of requesting a specific service or product and his contacts are then delivered to the advertiser as a lead. This implies that the user is assured a veritable flood of targeted responses.

What makes Sulekha's Indian business model unique is that the advertisers largely smaller businesses have literally nothing to do online. They pay for the leads-Sulekha could be a skywriting site for many it matters to them. There's absolutely no commerce conducted online, so there are no security issues. As Prabhakar says, all he really had a need to have set up was a crack sales team. "They (people) are my real assets. The rest that sulekha. com owns can match a difficult disk, " he says. So while recruiting, he looks for people with the winning attitude: those who regard problems as challenges and revel in their work.

However, reactions took time to convert into revenue. It was three years before Sulekha broke even, but there's been no looking back since that time. From Rs 50, 000 worth of business that was transacted in per month initially, the website has shifted to making at least twice this amount in a day. The company has offices in five cities across the country-Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Delhi-and plans to open more. Today, Sulekha is exactly what Prabhakar always wanted it to be: "Not simply a site that people love to visit, but a niche site that individuals have to go to. "

Authoritarianism obviously pays. Users are happy with Sulekha, which gets a large variety of repeat visitors, according to Prabhakar. But the portal's success has given rise to innumerable rumours. "When you attain a certain size, there's nothing people can do except talk, " he says. While they are really talking, he's getting into different media, including cell phones. The end result is clear: Prabhakar wants Sulekha to be everyone's default option.

Sulekha. com is succeeding today by identifying and firmly establishing first-mover leadership role in multiple areas, and by managing its resources smartly and is getting ready to launch the first Indian electronic bookstore aimed at selling downloadable content to end-users. It includes won unanimous praise from numerous Indian and foreign media for its unique approach and commercial success.

REVENUE MODEL:

Sulekha derives its revenues in India by using a performance guaranteed response model by which they have got served a person base of practically 20, 000 SMB customers and a huge selection of major brands.

Sulekha. com continues to rapidly expand its user and customer base both through its own sales team and through an evergrowing network of prominent alliances with major mobile and online partners such as Vodafone, Reliance, Sify and more, making the utilization of Classifieds and Local Search easy and ubiquitous.

Sulekha, which drives its revenues mainly from businesses, instead of the end consumers, is working out plans to rope in more channel partners who will drive online traffic to web sites.

The company which recently launched its assured advertising solution for small business, aims to attract about 50, 000 businesses to market in the portal by the end of the entire year.

The company is giving advertisers the guarantee to achieve success, and if an advertiser believe that his target to getting a certain amount of responses is not met, Sulekha. com is assuring to run the same advertisement till they met the business demand.

CUSTOMER VALUE PROPOSITION

"User-generated content, give attention to the social media targeted at specifically Indians and on making a earnings with local commerce within the community has been the unique value proposition (UVP) for Sulekha. com" according to Sulekha. com co-founder and CEO Satya Prabhakar.

Sulekha. com has migrated and replicated there success in the online space to the mobile platform by giving services classifieds as well as mobile blogging in today's months. They want to expand by offerings, by creating more alliances with print media and mobile service providers.

Sulekha realizes this goal in a profitable manner by setting up a flexible and powerful interactive platform that connects Indians worldwide through a variety of popular and powerful services.

Here are some concrete examples of the way they do it:

Social Capital: Sulekha provides the most popular platform for expression and discussions (articles/columns, Coffeehouse, Weblogs) that allows exchange of thoughts and opinions. Sulekha has helped raised over $1 million / Rs. 5 crores for hundreds of cultural and charitable organizations to advertise and selling tickets for their funds and events.

Economic Capital: Sulekha runs typically the most popular online classifieds service in North America (and soon worldwide) that allows for the exchange of products and services among Indians. Also, Sulekha has also started a fund, collected.

Political Capital: Sulekha offers a powerful platform for Indian organizations worldwide to promote and discover support for petitions advocating their causes.

The Smart Techie magazine has released a set of "Top 25 most promising internet companies in India". The list includes BigAdda(social networking), Yatra. com(travel), Zapak(gaming), and Sulekha. com(local commerce).

CONCLUSION:

Some of the trends for the year ahead as predicted by Sulekha. com show that:

The ability to focus on online users by geography has improved, and it's really a lot cheaper now. Local advertisers can now make certain that only local eyeballs will see their ad. One can create a reputation very quickly online, adding to his credibility and opening more doors for themselves - all without setting foot outside the house.

Witnessing tremendous response from tier-II cities for local business search online, we believe that these cities in an exceedingly short span of time will engulf the online space.

The online space will also see frenzied activity with Marketers tightening their purse strings with a lot of stress on creative experimentation. Corporate houses, big and small will look at diversification in a big way - ways to synergize or differentiate their value offering to the end consumer. Small business will continue steadily to grow and are expected to embrace technology more in the foreseeable future because of the sheer economic viability attached to this medium.

Innovation can be a benchmark to leverage and sustain customer interest and loyalty. Apart from the online space, innovation in the mobile space will be tremendous with mobile commerce becoming a key platform for business convergence after the opening up of 3G networks.

AWARD WON BY SULEKHA:

PC World(June 2008) rated Sulekha. com the very best Local Search Site in India.

MSN (July 2008) rated Sulekha. com the very best WAP Site in India for Local Commerce.

CNBC (Oct 2008): Sulekha. comthe largest online Classifieds and Yellow Pages in India.

Venture Beat(May 2008): "A merger between Facebook and Craigslist may seem to be like a pipe dream - however in India it's already happening. The web community Sulekha has quickly grown to become India's most significant user-generated content sitewith 6 million members"

Financial Times(UK): "Sulekha. comthe world's greatest online Indian communityis extraordinarily sticky - some visitors call it addictive"

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