'Hotmail, Yahoo unlikely to charge for e-mail usage'
Our Correspondent in Bombay
Sabeer Bhatia, the founder of Hotmail who introduced the concept of free e-mail said that Microsoft is unlikely to charge its users for Hotmail's e-mail services.
"Microsoft uses Hotmail as a platform to push its products like the MSN instant messenger. Hotmail's huge subscriber base comes handy for Microsoft to develop and tap into," Bhatia said.
Hotmail, one of the most popular e-mail services on the Internet is estimated to have nearly 150 million users, a number that Bhatia says is nearly half of the total estimated users of 350 million on the Internet.
Currently the debate on whether Web-based e-mail services charge their subscribers is raging. A few weeks ago, usa.net, a popular e-mail service announced that it would start charging its existing users for e-mail.
123india.com, a popular Indian portal too announced that it would offer e-mail services to only paid subscribers. The result has been that there is much speculation on whether ultimately all e-mail services on the Internet will work on a paid-subscription model.
Bhatia clarified that Hotmail, the first e-mail service to be offered free to users, was not started with 'free' as the USP. "The idea of Hotmail was not about free e-mail. Free was to just get popularity. The idea of Hotmail was that it would be on the Net, it would be ubiquitous and accessible from everywhere," he said.
He added that it is unlikely that the Microsoft would charge users of Hotmail.
Bhatia shot to fame after he sold Hotmail in 1997 to Microsoft for a whopping $400 million. On Wednesday evening, he delivered a talk on ''Internet through the eyes of an entrepreneur in both good and bad times'.
At the talk, Yahoo India country-head, Deepak Chandnani, also ruled out any plan of charging for e-mail services in future. ''We are offering e-mail services free and will continue to do the same,'' he said. Yahoo India claims to have over 15 million Indian users for its services.
Chandnani said India is one of the most rapidly growing markets and that Yahoo did not want to change the dynamics now. The number of Internet users has grown from one million to 13 million in the last three years.
"One million new IDs are being created on Yahoo every month," Chandnani said.
Bhatia is in India on a long vacation after announcing the closure of his last venture, arzoo.com, Appraising new entrepreneurs of the risk that they have to face in a business, Bhatia said that any venture is fraught with four major risks. These are technology risk, people risk, market risk and funding risk.
"While market risk is a variable that we cannot control or predict, entrepreneurs should minimise the technology and people risk. Hiring the right kind of people is the most important part of building a start-up," he said.