In a candid conversation with WebHosting.info at Cloudbazaar 2018, Anand Vora, Director of Business Development, Donuts Inc, spills the beans on BL.INK’s India plan and how they are trying to differentiate themselves in a market that is changing at a rapid pace. He explains why SMEs and influencers need to leverage the power of short URLs in order to brand themselves and what they plan to do with Travel.Domains, by launching an interesting geo-fencing product.
Without further ado, here is an in-depth interview with Mr.Vora:
We heard you talking about BL.INK at Cloudbazaar. What are your plans for India with respect to BL.INK?
BL.INK was a part of a company we (Donuts Inc) acquired a year ago out of Austin, Texas. The company was predominantly targeting corporate customers and have been in the business dealing with Fortune 500 companies, for the last 10 years. One of the feedbacks, especially from registrar partners such as Endurance, was that the TLDs are great but there had to be an element of utility to it. Businesses had been using link and URL shorteners forever but they have never been a channel driven (product). With BL.INK, we saw an opportunity to change it into a channel specific product. Hence channels like resellers and registrars miss out on the economies of the product.
We have recently launched this product with one of our first partners, Name.Com in the US and the results so far have been fantastic. When we were here last time, at the Ctrl+F5 event in Bangalore, we did a limited release of BL.INK in front of an audience of more than 250 resellers. The response was fantastic. Which is why Donuts Inc as a company thought about taking BL.INK to a larger audience and what better than Cloudbazaar? And here, once again, it has been validated!
So, coming back to your question, the plan for India is to first and foremost get it (BL.INK) integrated with Endurance. We can get it to resellers through a marketplace and then continue getting feedback from the resellers we have spoken over here because the product was built with the North American market in mind. We have received feedback saying that the ‘feature set’ and the pricing has to be aligned with the needs of the Indian market. That’s our immediate goal. Over the next year, we aim to figure that out and see if we can launch an India specific BL.INK product.
You also spoke about how this (BL.INK) is going to help SMEs brand themselves. How are SMEs reacting to it? Have they started seeing value or do you think this is going to take time, maybe 4-5 years?
It’s a great question. In the U.S. we are experiencing an instant uptake. Over here (in India) I think we expect the same because its a product that has been used by SMEs for a while now. However, they (SMEs) were losing out on the branding. If you visit Instagram or any Indian influencer’s page today, they are using either bit.ly or linked.me. They are influencers for heaven’s sake, they ought to have their own branding!
So if we message it right with Endurance and Donuts’ marketing engine, SMEs and influencers can leverage BL.INK. I think we can get this up, running and successful pretty soon.
Similar to BL.INK, do you see any products coming up or do you, at Donuts Inc, have such products in the pipeline?
Yes, Donuts Inc is always on the lookout for such opportunities. We have .PLACE as a TLD which we took off the shelf and are currently coming up with a product that is related to geo-fencing. It’s a company that we invested in since they had great products. I can’t share a lot of details, but we are using the DNS to map out the world to do geo-fencing since its applications are innumerable, right from drone delivery to food delivery to e-Commerce and so on. So, the short answer is yes, we are constantly looking to innovate.
Can you talk about Travel.Domains? Donuts have launched it very recently, almost a month ago. What are the plans with Travel.Domains as far as India and the global market are concerned?
Technically, Travel.Domains is not a new gTLD or a legacy TLD. It’s a ‘mid-way’ TLD. We acquired .TRAVEL a few months ago and are looking at how people are using it, how the registrations are done, etc. We are also revamping its marketing, which is why it is Travel. Domains.
Internationally, we are in talks with agencies and travel enthusiasts for BD deals (Business Development). In India, we were surprised to see that there were so many resellers having connections to associations and travel bloggers. We definitely want to tap into that. Though we haven’t planned it out yet, we are in talks with the team at Endurance to figure things out. This will be a part of 2019 and further plans.
So talking about 2019, any reflections or learnings that you have had from 2018 at Donuts Inc? Something that you would want to take ahead in 2019 and something that you would want to avoid?
I don’t know if this is general knowledge, but Donuts Inc has a new majority owner. Boston-based private equity ABRY partners bought a majority stake in our company. In addition to this, we also have a new CEO joining us in mid-November. This CEO has run many multi-million dollar businesses. He is very focused and will be concentrating on international expansion.
So in 2019, we will see more efforts, quick executions and quick tests. We will be taking a learn-fast, fail-fast and learn-fast-again kind of approach for some of the markets. One of the things that we will not take from 2018 is adapting completely. We didn’t do that a lot. We did some of it but didn’t completely adapt to local market trends. But again, that was a different stage in our business and we were still trying to learn and get that in place. In 2019, we will be doing a lot of things locally such as pricing, people etc.
Any trends that you see in 2019 that are likely to recur or you can say are set in stone?
Nothing set in stone, right? If you look at China right now, the boom that we saw with investors has completely stalled and there are multiple reasons why. So you never know what comes out. But across industries, consolidation has been the trend over the last two years. Be it, registrar, hosting or registry. I think this trend will continue. Registries and partners will become hyperfocused on a handful of TLDs based on the industry, so I think we will see that happening.
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