An Indian YouTube clone, Meravideo.com, is close to getting $1.5 million venture capital funding. The man behind the video site, Kanwaldeep S Kalsi, head, Braingain Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, said, "The money, which is for an initial period of 8-9 months, will be spent on infrastructure, bandwidth scalability, manpower and public relations and marketing of the site." He would not divulge more details.
Meravideo.com is modelled on the lines of YouTube and is one of India's few such sites. Others include infeedia.com which is positioned as a South Asian video aggregator. It does not host videos but allows one to post India-centric videos from other popular video sites. ApnaTube.com too is a YouTube clone. It allows hosting of videos.
YouTube was recently acquired by Google for $1.6 billion. Along with social-networking sites like Myspace.com, Facebook, Friendster, Digg and Flickr worldwide, it had managed to get very high valuations $15bn in the case of Myspace and $2bn in the case of Facebook. All such sites boast of millions of users over 100 million Myspace users while others with 10 million or so.
The key is user-created content. This is at the center of YouTube's strategy which generates about 100 million page views a day (more than the NBC network). Kalsi plans to do likewise. At MeraVideo, 'the video creator earns money by simply sharing it with friends, family and the world', explains Kalsi.
How will he make money, though?
"Will this imported concept work in India," wonders Avnish Bajaj, founding MD of Matrix Partners Investment Fund. "Internet users in India spend a fraction of the time compared to the US counterparts where such models are successful. The Indian psyche is different. Hence there's no viral effect and these sites are difficult to monetise in India."
Kalsi thinks otherwise. He believes people will use MeraVideo since the advertisers' money is split equally between the video's author and MeraVideo. Advertisers can track and achieve a return while using the 'pay per click' model. Revenue is also generated from downloading and sharing of videos onto mobiles, sale of content, sale of DVDs and VCDs of these videos, sale of video clippings to other content providers and banner advertisements. Kalsi also claims he has tied-up with big studios for content.
However, bandwith is a major problem in India. Downloading videos from a dial-up connection can be a painful experience. Besides, 'about 30 percent of the cost goes towards hosting and bandwidth', admits Kalsi who plans to host the content with India data centres too that do peering to get the videos at similar speeds with a very minimal time lag.
What about copyright and objectionable material, though, especially that YouTube too faces this problem? Kalsi says he currently has people monitoring the site manually. With 12,000 hits to the site daily, this is acceptable but is not a long-term solution when the traffic soars. Kalsi says he will scale his manpower and bandwidth requirements accordingly.