Weekly Startup Profiles > Minglebox.com
|Imagine meeting your friends online and exchanging notes on the internet! Well, social networking websites are on the roll, but are they lucrative? Leading VCs seem to think so: Minglebox was just four months old when it achieved what every young start-up dreams of-funding of $7 million from Sequoia Capital.|
Social networking web 2.0 website
The Internet is the biggest common area of interest today, states Kavita irrefutably. Bowled over by the infinite possibilities on the internet, Kavita decided to do something web-based. The social networking craze had already caught India's attention when Kavita and two other co-founders decided to join the party.
This decision was followed by extensive research across mature markets from USA, China, Japan and Korea. The research corroborated the fact that young people spend less time on traditional media and a lot more time on the internet, not just browsing aimlessly but making friends and networking.
Minglebox is a website aimed at youngsters between 15-30 years of age-so are a million other sites. So what makes Minglebox.com different from other networking websites?
An interesting difference is that it works as a sort of college intranet, by allowing more intimate groups to be formed. People from the same office, college or even classroom can exchange notes, in a closed forum. Minglebox boasts of innovative features-a jukebox that allows you to access the latest streaming music videos from Bollywood films, Youtube and GoogleVideo. "We have great detailing on the website, with generous lashings of 'Hinglish' and other campus lingo," explains Kavita. That's probably what clicked!
There are no successful Indian properties or destination websites for young people in India, says Kavita.
Around the time Minglebox was being conceived, sites such as Orkut and MySpace were already making their mark felt amongst the youth. But that didn't faze the optimistic team. On the contrary, Kavita feels that the popularity of such sites helped in marketing Minglebox better. "We just had to sell the product, and not the concept of social networking," she claims.
Kavita strongly feels that internet communities are still at a nascent stage in India. "In mature markets, like South Korea, for example, the kids spend longer hours on the internet," she explains. Kavita plans to be ready with a whole lot of communities when that happens in India.
Minglebox's strength lies in being India-centric and providing a very 'Indian experience,' with increased local content and usage of regional languages.
Aware of the sheer potential in social networking, the trio took the plunge by financing themselves at the start. Currently funded by Sequoia Capital, Kavita eventually hopes to drive revenue through online advertising, with secondary sources like mobile, and community based commerce. At the moment, Kavita and her team are concentrating on building communities and increasing usage, rather than on revenue.
While big ticket investors have been showing an interest in social networking sites, this is probably the first Indian one they have financed. Kavita states that several firms, both financial and strategic, showed interest in their concept. Sequoia was an obvious choice, as they could provide valuable insights based on past successes like Yahoo and Google.
Inspired by thousands of internet buffs and started by the core 'trio' team who are IIT Delhi, alumni, Minglebox is the product of the combined experience of Yahoo, i2, ICICI, Wipro, HLL and Infosys between them. Once the funding came through, heavyweights like R Ramaraj, ex-CEO and co-founder of Sify have also come on (the) board.
Minglebox is backed by a young team. "Between weekly releases, endless arguments over UI (user interface), and ideas bursting from every desk, our little space is always buzzing," says Kavita.
The Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) estimates that there are around 28 million Indians online regularly and this figure is estimated to reach 100 million by 2007-08. So if Minglebox plays its cards right, there should be plenty of pie for all players.
The future focus is necessarily on increased usage because Minglebox is heavily dependent on popularity for its existence.
It naturally follows that Minglebox is concentrating on creating communities for their main target audience - 'the campus.' Exciting tie-ups are being planned for events such as college festivals, workshops for young entrepreneurs and so on. Of course, with the increasing number of internet addicts among working people, Kavita intends to extend the reach of Minglebox to young officer-goers as well.
Kavita believes that the future will bring with it a more mature market. She envisages Minglebox playing host to a whole lot of communities. Integration across media would enable Minglebox to become far more interactive, and attractive.
About a million things! When Kavita isn't dreaming up new products and features, she's grappling with day-to-day issues that range from team building to competitor moves. "I need to be sure of whom I am recruiting," she says. And if by chance there's any breathing space? "My two-year-old daughter keeps me up," she laughs.
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