India Masterclass at NamesCon 2017

India has nearly as many internet users as the USA, despite less than 20% of its population having access. This is a humongous and important emerging market: we’re talking 300 million internet users, with another 50 million added per year. At NamesCon 2017, Braden Pollock (Owner of Legal Brand Marketing) moderated a conversation between experts in the India market:

  • Paul Singh Sawhney (Founder of Platform.in)  
  • Deepak Daftari (CEO of eSiksha.com) 
  • Shiva Kandula (Digits United Limited)  
  • Karn Jajoo (BizDev and Marketing at Radix)

India by the Numbers

With a population of 1.3 billion people, India’s internet user basegrew at 30% last year, compared to China’s 3% and the USA’s 2%, said Sawhney. Right now, more Indians are online at this moment than there are people in the US. (That 30%, by the way, is one of the more conservative estimates.)

Daftari added that a nationwide fiber-cable initiative will speed up that growth rate. Kandula said that people are spending six to seven hours per day online now. “Startup nation”, he called it: we’re looking at the new generation of web entrepreneurs: “Lots of startups are coming up.” The number of startups, agreed Jajoo, “is only going to go up.”  Daftari added that Y Combinator is coming to India to set up co-working spaces. Sawhney said that the average age in India is 25 or 26. “These are gonna be our next CEOs, CFOs.”

Daftari said that in the next few years, the mobile talking-space will drop to 10%, as 90% of Indians’ mobile use will involve data. Sawhney said that, for the foreseeable future, .COM will be king... but .IN will be queen. He sees .IN addresses advertised all over the country. “We need to get these into the hands of end users,” he said. Daftari said that it’ll soon be 50/50 as Indian companies mirror their .COM sites to .IN, which is the current favorite for new companies.

“When I first started investing, it was just .IN,” said Sawhney: “It’s personal preference.” Daftari suggested reinvesting a chunk of your domaining profits into .IN.  Kandula said that the lion’s share of his holdings are in .IN, as he sheds his .CO.IN holdings. “Yes, it’s India, but it can be used as ‘internet’, it can be used as ‘international’,” said Sawhney: there are various opportunities to use it beyond the geo-centric; sk.in, for example. He added that eight of the top eight .IN investors are actually in China.

The Value of a Name

Jajoo noted that Indians follow British English as opposed to American English, but the nTLDs are generally understood throughout the country. Domains aren’t widely considered a liquid asset, though, he added; which certainly isn’t the case in China. Daftari pointed back to the changing demography of India to suggest that that trend won’t continue for long. The older generation, said Daftari, didn’t even understand the value of a domain name to begin with: “People need to understand the importance of branding.”

It’s about getting people to believe that these investments are safe and that the market is real. At first, said Daftari, he just told people that he was in tech. Now, he says, people understand what a domain—and domaining—is.