DTDIY SPECIAL THE 'HOW TO' ISSUE 2012
How to 'Run a Successful Online Biz'
The exploding popularity of e-commerce has spawned successful business models for online firms to cash in on. Sabeer Bhatia, who sold his Internet start-up Hotmail to Microsoft for $500 million way back in 1997, talks to DTDIY about the business mantra to keep online firms ticking on.
Mona Mehta | Issue Date - 03/02/2012
Q. It's been over 15 years since you set up Hotmail. How has the online business evolved over these years?
A. The Internet-based business models were unproven in those days when Hotmail came up. Today, innovation is the name of the game and simple ideas which users can access and evaluate easily are the ones most in demand. The online business has many successful business models to show for today, which wasn't the case earlier.
Q. Today, there's a profusion of online start-ups. What do you think makes an online venture successful?
A. It’s revenue generation. That's what makes an online start-up successful in the long run. Online start-ups must keep in mind that they should focus on niche areas, specialize in providing accessible service that leads to efficient communication, apart from focusing on social media and marketing. Of course, before setting up an online venture, one needs to do a thorough research and market survey and figure out ways to introduce innovation so that actual users find value proposition in your offerings. Once you have these things in place, it will set the stage for potential revenue generation.
Q. Firms like Facebook, Groupon et al are now commanding steep valuations, reminiscent of the dizzying dotcom days during the late 1990s. Do you think we have another tech bubble in the making?
A. No, I don’t think so. As I mentioned at the start, 15 years ago, online business models were unproven, and generated only 20% to 30% of real possible revenues. But in recent years, e-commerce has become very popular and have been generating good revenues.
Q. You have been associated with some of the hottest online properties. How do see Facebook's prospects (today's hottest online property) going forward?
A. I think Facebook will continue doing well not only in terms of providing transparent communication, but also in terms of social marketing and bringing about new developments in social media.
Q. You have been involved lately with the setting up of the Jaxtr SMS platform. What does it have to make it popular with consumers?
A. Along with Yogesh Patel, I have recently launched JaxtrSMS, a cross-platform, open texting application to send SMS to anyone in the world for free. It has been completely developed in India. JaxtrSMS is unique in that a mobile user can send a text SMS to any mobile phone in the world without requiring the receiver to have the JaxtrSMS application installed on his/her phone. This open facet of JaxtrSMS distinguishes it from other mobile messaging applications where messages can only be sent within a closed network to people who have the same application installed. JaxtrSMS can be easily downloaded from 222.jaxtrsms.com or from the app store on the handset for free and is compatible with all mobile operating systems, including the iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and J2ME.
Q. With so many mobile apps around, what are the chances of JaxtrSMS becoming hot?
A. So far the response has been fabulous. We have worked effectively towards innovation in order to provide users with a unique online platform experience. The fact that our JaxtrSMS has been downloaded by users across 197 countries in just a few weeks since our soft launch amply reflects our belief that JaxtrSMS will prove to be immensely useful to mobile users across the world.
Q. What do you think is the future of the online business and which direction is it headed for?
A. I feel that the future of the online businesses is very bright, provided innovation-based online business models are tailormade for customers with easy access to social marketing and social media platforms. Simplicity of usage and innovation will define the business.