AOL, the Internet division of $44.2-billion Time Warner launched its India portal on Thursday. This is its first portal outside the US and Europe.
P G Ponnapa, vice president & general manager, AOL India, thinks it is never too late in India. "If Yahoo! had the first-mover advantage, we have the second-mover advantage. We have been evaluating the Indian market for long. This is the apt time to be in India, when the Internet-user base is poised to take a big leap and with our cool and innovative features that are new to the Indian online community, we will definitely be among the top three in the next three years," Ponnapa told Business Standard after the launch of AOL India portal.
According to an estimate by Kaufman Brothers, the number of internet users in India, which stood at around 45 million in 2006, is set to reach 67 million in 2007 and 147 million by 2010.
"We wanted to make sure this (India launch) is our highest priority. India is essential to the growth of AOL. Although this is a very early stage for AOL in the Indian marketplace, we would look very closely at Indian consumers and would be investing significantly to enhance the users' experience," Ron Grant, president and COO of AOL said.
AOL's relationship with India dates back to 2002 when the company started its call centre. In 2005, AOL started its R&D operations in India.Subsequently, it set up a knowledge centre to support the US operations. AOL has about 2,000 people across all its divisions in India.
AOL has launched its next-generation of E-mail services in India, which include unlimited storage, effective safety and spam-blockingsystems and mobile services ahead of its launch in the US and Europe.
The AOL India portal offers integrated e-mail,instant messenger, mobile services, video, sports and entertainment. The company has partnered with Google to provide Google search feature.
AOL e-mail services have features such as auto-rememberingof mail ids, mail search based on the subject or calendar, among others. Using the AOL messenger, a user can chat using multiple e-mail ids through multiple chat windows. A user is also able to drag and drop pictures onto his chat windows. A user can connect to a maximum of 1,000 buddies. AOL mobile will enable the users to receive mail on mobile devices and stay connected with the AOL messenger via SMS.
"Bylaunching our new mail products in India, we are making a powerful statement about the importance of India to AOL and the online world. It shows how committed we are to this market for long term," said Maneesh Dhir, AOL's executive vice president. In 2006, AOL's revenue was $7.9 billion and operating income before depreciation and amortisation was $2.6 billion.