Well well well....Our very own Founder & Owner of India-Forums, Mr. Vijay Bhatter, was recently interviewed by ChubbyBrain - a portal which reviews promising startups and web ventures. As you can see touchwood India-Forums is surely growing and reaching newer heights with our constant great discussions, active debates and the recent celebrity blogs! Many are now looking towards India-Forums to find the secret recipe of success!
Vijay loves to hide and keep a low profile but finally he's been caught for the interview and grilled so members enjoy reading and be sure to let us know what you thought about the interview!
And a special mention from Vijay that he wants to thank everyone on the forum as India-Forums would be nothing without ALL of YOU! And oh yes keep your eyes on the member count as we are soon to reach 400,000 members
Interview with Vijay Bhatter, CEO and Founder of India Forums
March 22, 2009So Vijay, briefly, describe India-Forums and what it is and when was it founded? How did you come up with the idea for India-Forums and what problem it is trying to solve for its users?
We were launched in December 2003. Our goal was bridge the gap between Indian television industry and its audience globally and bring them together to interact and take feedback.
The portal started as a blog on Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahi (adaptation of Betty La Fea which was adapted into Ugly Betty on American Television). With a lack of a democratic forum, website, or community besides Yahoo groups at that time, India-Forums provided a platform for television viewers to voice their opinion. As an open forum, members did not have to register in order to read updates or look through the portal and the comments posted by others. It allowed for people to adapt to the idea of a community based on their favorite Indian Television shows bringing fans together to ultimately discuss, debate and voice their opinions about the entertainment they consume on Indian Television.We've highlighted some of India-Forums traffic and member numbers. How does India-Forums make money?
The primary way for the website to make money is via Direct AdSales on the site and newsletter and through Network ads.
Other revenue streams are also opening up like charging artists to get listed in our database, creating wallpapers and the latest being conducting Market Research for different shows on India-Forums.com as it is the only online portal with a niche Indian Television audience.Who are your main competitors and what do you think differentiates you from competitor offerings?
Our competitors are in several sectors. Beginning with the online communities, we compete with online groups and Indian social networking websites like BigAdda (www.bigadda.com), Ibibo (www.ibibo.com) and Orkut (www.orkut.com) which also have groups for fans to come together. We are also competing via our portal TellyBuzz.com with websites and all news publications that carry Indian Television News. Our last group of competitors are Bollywood websites as we have our very own Bollywood section and our parent company Cyberax Media is also in the process of launching BollyCurry.com.India-Forums has an Alexa rank of nearly 2500-3000. What has led to India-Forums success?
India-Forums had the first mover advantage as it was one of the first online communities to get into the Indian entertainment arena. Nonetheless, a huge amount of the success can be attributed to team work. The dedicated development team members who volunteer to keep the forum running, our team which works day and night on the technical and designing aspects and the members who instill life into the forum via their discussions and participation. Our members have been able to associate with the forum and felt like it is their second home and thanks to them we have achieved success in the Alexa Rankings and we hope to climb higher.Are you angel investor or venture capital backed? Are you currently fundraising and how much are you seeking? How would you describe the current fundraising environment?
India-Forums is part of Cyberax and has been continuously bootstrapping its own growth plans. However, we are open to investments as that will help us grow faster; we are looking for the right partner, who not only financially invests in the company but also brings the right synergies that will further speed up our growth. We are currently seeking to raise funds of around 8 million dollars in tranches to take India-Forums.com and our other allied portals to the next level.
The current fundraising environment is not very positive due to the economic situation but nonetheless opportunities are available for those who are at the right place in the right time.How many employees does India-Forums have, and how would you describe the company's culture?
Cyberax Group, the parent company of India-Forums, is a small team of 25 employees. We believe in teamwork and going beyond the ordinary. Our team is very diverse and comprises of people from various backgrounds including IT, Marketing, Media, Graphics etc. We believe in providing our employees with the best working culture and a healthy environment, which stimulates creativity and innovation. Cyberax prides itself in being a company with a relatively very low attrition rate (a problem in India) and we do invest in them and take efforts to ensure that everyone are growing with us.Currently and as you grow, what types of people do you feel will succeed at India-Forums? Are you currently hiring?
We have always believed in adding those to our team who believe in themselves and are ready to succeed via proving themselves through hard work. To succeed at India-Forums one needs to be able to don a few hats. We are looking for individuals who understand our business model of leveraging all our portals to work together as a team. We are always hiring due to the constant growth and are open to working with hard working and motivated individuals who have a spark to succeed.What is the ultimate goal for India-Forums, e.g., how would you define success?
India-Forums is the number one discussion portal but our aim is to become the number one Indian website online. For us success is a journey not a destination. Growth for us is getting into new avenues and proving ourselves within each niche. Whether it was our past projects like Telly Buzz or our future ideas like Celebrity Blogs and some that I can not reveal as its proprietary information, we always want to break new ground and ultimately keep adding to our portal to make it more addictive and loved by our members and the Indian Entertainment industry through our differentitated offerings.With regards to achieving this success, what keeps you up at night, e.g. what do you worry about?
My passion and the infinite amount of opportunities available keep me thinking and going around the clock. There are no worries except that we never want our portals to be stagnant. Our team works hard to ensure that we are constantly growing. It's always a challenge to retain one's leadership as the number one position brings with not only a sense of accomplishment but also the responsibility to keep continuing as expectations are heightened.How is the current economy impacting India-Forums? What challenges are you encountering? What opportunities is the down economy creating for you?
The current economic trend has definitely affected India-Forums as our advertising revenue has dropped, though by a small percentage. The problem we are currently encountering is that we have had to slow down our expansion plans due to market conditions.
As rightly said there is an opportunity in every adversity and for us the opportunities have come out of meeting the challenges of streamlining our processes, increasing productivity and optimizing costs wherever possible. We are working on finding different ways to increase revenues. For us it's a great time to increase our market share for example as more people are turning towards the Internet than ever before. Online advertising is said to be the only sector of advertising that will grow this year as all others may drop due to the economic situation. So we are positive and hopeful that for us this year will bring new opportunities!What India-Forums accomplishment are you most proud of?
I wish there was one accomplishment I could point to but India-Forums to me is like a baby and as a parent you can usually not pinpoint one accomplishment. Being the founder of a portal that is so well know in the Indian entertainment industry is surely a great feeling. We have everyone from actors to directors and television channels calling us to receive support and reach out to members. I am proud to be associated with a website which has given hundreds and thousands of individuals across the world a platform to voice their opinions. And lastly I am proud to be associated with India-Forums as it has created many relationships. Truly I am a proud parent today and will always be.With that context for India-Forums, let's turn to things that are a bit more general, e.g., the Indian startup scene, whether India-Forums is hiring and the kinds of people that will succeed at the firm and your own management style to name just a few things.
What advice would you give to other current or aspiring entrepreneurs? For entrepreneurs looking to start a community oriented site like India-Forums, do you have any specific advice on what they should focus on?
Believe in yourself and in your dreams! I have seen many entrepreneurs who during the low times give up and I really believe that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Good and bad times are part of every journey including that of entrepreneurship so just believe in yourself and in your dream. For a site like India-Forums I would say team work is essential, patience and it is important to keep growing by adding features and entering new niches. While the high points may be thrilling and motivating it is the low points that really teach the lessons needed to move further in the journey. Don't give up hope and believe in your dreams as success can be a life long companion if you believe in yourself.Personally, how would you describe your management style?
I would describe my style of management as situational. I manage according to the situation at hand, because not every situation is the same. I am a firm believer in team work and thus I like to understand each members' strengths and weaknesses and then delegate work accordingly. A good manager needs to connect with his team and work with them and thus my goal always is to make my team feel a part of the goals and to work with them in achieving them.What other startup(s) do you admire and why?
Though no longer startups, a social networking website like Facebook is definitely admirable. The way the website caught on and has become a craze is remarkable. I also admire the team behind the website for their constant innovation as I have noticed that they keep on adding new features, changing the layout and not letting their audience become bored of their website and this is crucial.Besides India-Forums, what are your other business interests?
I am interested in managing a business, which owns several portals on the world wide web which all leverage each other's strengths. Whether its our portal Meme4U.com which is an egreetings website or our website Bollycurry.com, I want to create portals which are leaders in their relative industries and when each portal should strengthen our parent company Cyberax. With Brand N Buzz our company has recently entered the arena of branding, PR and marketing for celebrities in the entertainment industry and thus ultimately we are looking to vertically integrate and create a company which houses portals and projects that can all work in synergy with each other to deliver unbelievable and remarkable results.Who do you regularly seek the counsel of?
I seek counsel of my close friends (experts in their own fields). It's always good to get feedback and opinions and even criticism as it can help one grow.What inspires you?
Personal satisfaction is my biggest inspiration. I like to make sure that I have given my best and tried my hardest each day in achieving my goals. The day one stops believing in themselves and does not give 500% to their work, he can not progress further in his career and towards his ambitions! Thus my inspiration is to keep working harder and harder each day and doing more challenging things so that I can learn and grow.What startups or areas of innovation do you feel there is too much hype about?
Right now I would say there is too much hype about social networking and web 2.0. These phenomenons have caught on quite quickly but I feel the true test will be whether they stay around long enough or if they will disappear as trends of yesterday.
What do you think of the Indian startup scene? Do you see other promising Indian startups emerging? If yes, who?
I believe that the Indian startup scene is quite positive. Indians are known to be famous for their careers in technology and I really do feel that some of the best startups and innovations can come from India.What are the opportunities for Indian startups and what are some of the challenges of being a startup in India?
Being an Indian startup, one has a huge audience they can start catering to as Indian is, as everyone knows, one of the most populated countries in the world. However, I feel that exposure to the western world and especially getting funding for one's project becomes very difficult when the startup is from India as the competition is high.
To learn more about how India-Forums came into existence, you can visit http://www.india-forums.com/theatre