The new, wholly owned Internet subsidiary of HT Media Ltd, Firefly eVentures Ltd has acquired social networking site Desimartini.com in an attempt to enter one of the fastest growing segments in the Indian Internet space. Terms were not being disclosed, though HT Media said it was for less than $10 million (Rs 39.3 crore).
“Everything is becoming localised and as broadband penetration improves, we see phenomenal opportunity and growth in the Internet in India. This acquisition in the social networking space is the first step towards expanding our Internet base. We are exploring other new online businesses such as gaming, e-commerce and classifieds,” said Amit Garg, business head, Internet, HT Media.
Garg said HT Media plans to launch online portals in jobs, matrimonials, real estate and auto verticals — areas where the classifieds pages of newspapers currently dominate and where the Hindustan Times has a strong presence in some markets.
Desimartini.com, launched by Pahwa Knowledge Based Services late last year, is funded by the Pahwa group of companies and has a membership base of 250,000. It attracts around 2.5 million page views a month. Apart from global social networking sites such as Google Inc.’s Orkut and Facebook (in which Microsoft Corp. has recently acquired a stake), Desimartini.com competes with homegrown players such as the Bangalore-based Minglebox.com, which connects students across school and university campuses, Ibibo.com, Indyarocks.com, and Bigadda.com, a site launched by Reliance Entertainment, part of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group.
Users will experiment with multiple sites till they find one that suits them best, said Parijat Chakraborty, vice-president at TNS Global, a business information and research firm.
“The key is to carve a distinct niche and provide a good value proposition to the user,” Chakraborty added.
Indyarocks, launched last June, claims 10 million page views and 500,000 SMS messages (it doubles up as a mobile social networking site). “With so many local social networking engines coming up, players like us will need to address two needs for the users — different ways of providing interactivity to the user and giving him a freedom of expression and privacy,” said Kalyan Manyam, CEO, Indyarocks.
Compared to some existing players, Desimartini has fewer users. “It may look like we are late in getting into the local social networking business, but the Internet business is still in infancy and not mature in India,” said Garg.