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'India in for boom in mobile telephony'

india Updated: Jan 02, 2007 12:24 IST

India is in for an explosive growth in mobile telephony, the number of users each month equalling the total Indian population in the US, says a leading Indian American CEO.

Satya Prabhakar, founder of Sulekha, which claims to be the largest Indian networking site in the world, says that he sees future growth not in online services as much as among cellular phone users.

The greater growth, he said, would be in India, rather than the US.

"The growth is in mobile telephony," Prabhakar said, "as cellular phones are getting more sophisticated, more and more online users are migrating to the cellular phone.

"Internet growth is dramatically increasing each month (in India). Broadband adoption in India has been showing signs of explosive growth since the mid-2005, and is growing today at a rate of 30 percent a quarter.

"Sulekha's target market is the 50 million online and 80 million mobile users. Their numbers are expected to grow to 100 million and 200 million users respectively in the next few years," he said.

To put it in perspective, the growth of users in India per month would equal the total Indian population in the US, said Prabhakar, whose company is based in the US.

Sulekha provides 250,000 advertisements, addressing 80 percent of Indians worldwide, company officials said.

Sulekha was established in 1999, with a staff of just two - Prabhakar, and his wife. Today the online service has a staff of 275.

In an implicit acknowledgement of Sulekha's growth as well as future potential, Norwest Venture Partners (NVP), a leading global technology venture capital firm, has invested $10 million in it.

Pramod Haque, managing partner of NVP, has also joined Sulekha's board of directors. NVP currently manages more than $2.5 billion in venture capital.

"Sulekha has been a Web 2.0 company even during the Web 1.0 days," said Haque. "It has positioned itself at the vortex of three of the largest Internet mega trends: social media, local commerce, classifieds and yellow pages.

"While the management of Sulekha has done a great job of developing reach and revenue, the real explosive potential, both in online and mobile platforms, is still in front of us.

"I believe our future lies in user generated content," said Prabhakar. "We can now boast of having the largest number of Indian bloggers on Sulekha, the largest network of people's movie reviews and the largest number of photos posted online in the blogs.

"My ultimate ambition for Sulekha is make it the most influential Indian online community and mobile interactive platform," said Prabhakar. "We plan to offer unquestioned value. When it comes to online networking, we want Indians all over the world to think of Sulekha first."

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