India Wire

I discovered there were no sites focusing on the needs of Indian parents - so I created one" Madanmohan Rao interviews Nirali Sanghi, founder of Bombay-based Nirali Sanghi has spent 9 years in the U.S.; she has a B.A. from Barnard College (in Economics and Computer Science) and an MBA from Columbia Business School (in Finance and Marketing). She has worked with Baring Brothers, Citibank, and the Boston Consulting Group. In mid-1998, her daughter Shyamoli was born - and so were the blueprints of her Web site,, India's first Web site and community geared towards the needs of Indian parents. The site was formally launched in May 1999.

What was the original vision which led to the founding of

I always wanted to start my own company. When I became a parent, it seemed like a logical time to shift gears! It just so happened that when I became a parent, there were no other sites for Indian parents. I turned this gap into an opportunity and thought of as my first site. I tried to include in IndiaParenting what I would have liked to see/know as a parent.

What is the current scope of your operations and how do you plan to scale up for growth?

I am talking to some VCs to take business to the next level. I am also working on a site for teens. Right now we are a team of 15; we should be at least twice that in the next couple of months. The site currently gets about 1 million page views a month (with almost no advertising from our side so far). This number will rapidly increase with
aggressive advertising, which will happen soon. All design and content has been developed in-house; the site is being hosted at VSNL.

What is your basic business model, and when do you expect to become profitable?

We are already doing very well, with some major sponsors such as Kodak, Scholastic, Lego. But we are also ploughing back all the money to grow the business. Right now our revenues are mainly through sponsorships. But, we are also getting into e-commerce in a big way, to host everything for children including toys, clothes, software, etc.

What are the Top Three lessons you have learned about the Net since launch?

1. What you think is important to have on the site may not be what your readers want!

2. Marketing is 99% of the effort

3. First impressions are critical. It is more difficult to win back a disappointed customer. In our case fortunately, we have only great comments!

What is your vision of what the Net can offer Indian business?

India lacks transparency in information collection and dissemination. People often refer to the world as being such a small place, largely with communications becoming so much easier. The Internet can help India become such a "small place" where a company in Madurai can source some parts from an agent in Udaipur without ever meeting him. That's on the B2B side. Internally too, the Internet can play a major role in bringing companies with offices spread all over the country (or even the world) communicate much more easily, so that companies can now operate as one entity as opposed to fragments of a larger company. It all boils down to information and communication.

What are the Top Three misconceptions you notice in the way Indian companies are approaching e-commerce?

1. There is no one e-commerce model that an Internet company can adopt. It would actually have to vary based on the company/vendor you are dealing with. Companies ask us what is your e-commerce model, whereas it actually
depends on what is THEIR distribution strategy.

2. What sells on the Net well is strong brands. In the U.S., most good things are branded; in India there are still many high quality non-branded items (like wedding clothes from home-grown fashion designers). These in
my view have a lower chance of succeeding unless they are backed by a strong Net brand.

3. India completely missed the mail-order catalogue business, which is why e-commerce will take a longer time to really take off.

What are the three best (and worst!) things people have said about your site?

We have captured many of the positive comments on the feedback section of the site; this keeps growing. We have only one type of negative comment -- that we have some Western baby pictures on the top page. What they don't realize is there are no copyright-free Indian baby pictures available in clipart! Somebody should get into making cliparts for Indian sites...

How severe are the logistics challenges for e-commerce in India?

Anything can be delivered anywhere in India, but at a price! And delivery could get quite expensive depending on the location of the customer and the warehouse. Since there are very few national chains or national warehouses, logistics can be a problem. For big ticket items with higher margins, it may be reasonable. But for small items (which are volume based), it may be cheaper for the customer to walk/drive up to their nearest store and buy it -- UNLESS you can offer things that are not easily available in their area.

We deliver products all over India (including for NRIs who want to gift), but not yet outside India.

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