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Quiet return of Internet "dotcoms"

india Updated: Nov 22, 2010 02:10 IST
N Madhavan

Ten years ago, around this time, Internet startups that banked on content and e-commerce, fondly called "dotcoms" were falling like nine pins. And this was after at least three years of a frenetic boom that saw stock markets, especially in the US, rise to dizzy heights.

Many "dotcoms" -- in hindsight - fell because many did not have revenue models, or because Internet expansion, both in number and in quality of bandwidth, was too slow -and also because many of them were over-ambitious. They were talking of high market valuations and share issues and getting venture funding even without customers in place!

Our attentions wandered over the next decade that saw the 9/11 attacks, the financial meltdown and the rise of social media firms such as Facebook and Twitter, apart from the Google phenomenon.

However, in the middle of all this, the Internet expanded steadily, and guess what, even "dotcoms" were making headway. Quietly.

There has been a silent but strong surge in Internet-based startups that offer content, commerce or services. These are not aggressive bells-and-whistles companies but boutique startups with fine ideas.

I decided to take note of this last week after I stumbled on a horde of new names with fancy, unique propositions.

Here is a sample of Indian firms that have simple service models, though I have not watched them to be able to take a guess on their future. Notably, some offer a mix of offline and online work, unlike many of the now-dead pure-play Web startups that confused the virtual world with a real one.

-MeriCar.com helps auto owners connect to the right car workshops by giving independent, unbiased advised based on user feedback.

-BooksVilla.com helps you exchange old books against payment of a R70 per exchange fee. It offers delivery of books as a core value.

-DogSpot.in is a dog dating service! Dog owners upload profiles of their pets and search for a suitable match - like many Indian parents do.

-TaxSpanner.com is a three-year old startup that helps online filing of taxes. It recently received angel (early stage venture capital) funding.

-URead.com is an online bookstore that says it offers more than five million titles across genres.

-CondomKing.in, based in Madurai, is a multi-brand e-shop for contraceptives.

All these online ventures show how hyped things can go on after the hype is over -- and that novel ideas do matter.