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Yahoo courts partners in India

business Updated: Nov 11, 2009 23:20 IST
Narayanan Madhavan

Search may be a difficult thing for Carol Bartz, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Yahoo Inc, but soul-searching clearly is not.

Eleven months into the Yahoo board after a failed buyout bid for the portal company by Microsoft catapaulted her to the top of the Internet media company in a management shuffle, she is clear about what her company is and what is not.

“We are a media company with amazing technology,” she told journalists on Wednesday. “Half of our business is in search…but we are not Google.”

With a focused description of itself as “the centre of people’s lives online” – or a pivot to drive traffic elsewhere amid an explosion of content sites and social networks – Yahoo is now out to woo local partnerships in India, wearing on its sleeves a people-friendly brand, a heavy-duty technology infrastructure and its traditional leadership of online banner ads distinct from the Google’s search-led leadership.

“India is excitingly complex. It is really important that we feel local to in India,” Bartz (61), ranked 12th in the list of the world’s most powerful women by Forbes magazine, told journalists. “We want to partner with those close to the people, wherever they are,…however regional they are.”

Yahoo already has a partnership with Hindi language publisher Jagran group. It is also an investor in match-making site and in that competes with Google’s AdWords in search-based advertising. It also has a technology centre in Bangalore.

Yahoo has a strong presence in India, with 72 per cent of the people online connected by Yahoo accounts. A recent ad campaign led to a 40 per cent rise in time spent on Yahoo India sites. With 96 per cent of Indian telecom operators in partnership with Yahoo, Bartz believes prospects are rich as mobile Internet takes off.

“Of course, Internet penetration is very low, but we view that as an opportunity,” said Bartz, who met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier on Wednesday and discussed possible ways to offer technology to bridge the digital divide and take more people online, particularly the the Unique Identity project.

Processing 500 billion e-mails a month (80 per cent of that unwanted spam) and 9 billion ads served every day and $1 billion (Rs 4,600 crore) in free cash flow every year, the company still has plenty of room to be relevant, Bartz said, dismissing talk that giants Google and Microsoft were out to eat Yahoo’s lunch.

Bartz said half of Yahoo’s business was from search, in which it got a new lease of life in a battle against Google after a partnership with Microsoft’s search engine Bing. But she adds that people spend only three percent of their Internet time on search. The other 97 per cent is where Yahoo sees its big chances.

Bartz was earlier at engineering software firm Autodesk. On her second day there, she discovered she had breast cancer. She successfully fought both the disease and corporate troubles at Autodesk.