In 2008, when Google changed their algorithm, Sanjay Virmani founder of iloveindia.com was heavily hit. “Our site revenues came down drastically and we decided to foray into other areas to diversify our risks. This catapulted the organization to a new growth trajectory,” explains Sanjay. Today with over 100 websites across domains like education, lifestyle, travel, real estate, finance and ecommerce, Sanjay feels that setback in 2008 is to be credited for all the transformation that their company underwent.
Sanjay is also the founder of Banyan Tree Infomedia, which was started in 2007 to address the shortage of good quality, reliable content on the internet. “We had insights on the type of content people accessed globally and thought that we could provide that kind of content from India,” says Sanjay.
137 million users and 40% annual growth rate makes the internet space one of the fastest growing industries in India. Add to this, the opportunity presented by rural India and what we have graced so far is a tip of the iceberg. Content is therefore set to be the king, but how this content reaches users in an optimized way remains a challenge. Today users are bombarded with content and the time when users will make choices on what they want and what they do not want is not far. Curating vast amount of data and presenting only relevant, meaningful content to the user will be the key. The opportunity in these areas spurred Banyan Tree to setup office.
Sanjay says content development has always been their forte and the expertise of the founding partner, Surat Singh Bhati. He adds: “Tracking trends of the business in the developed world gave us a good sense of what would work in India and what wouldn’t. So the intent was to provide content to users which they want rather than what we’d like them to read. This was our prime motivation to do something in the content management space."
With content consumption moving to smart phones and tablets, Sanjay is waiting to see how the industry evolves and so that publishers like him can get better yields by tapping the new media devices. Today, the firm has 8 large portals and 100 + micro sites across various domains. They also own few e-commerce websites in the areas of gifting and shopping.
Sanjay feels that ‘Internet writing’ as a profession is not too evolved in India. He finds very few people considering this a worthwhile career, and don’t tend to view this as something satisfying and rewarding. “Like many other things in our country, there is a huge demand supply mismatch of good quality writers and there is a strong need to promote this form of writing in mass communication colleges,” says Sanjay. Besides writers, producing good quality content at scale, with the right cost structures is also a challenge for BanyanTree. Employee retention and the constant pace at which technology is changing also keep Sanjay and his team on their toes.