In a trend that is becoming the order of the day for internet service providers (ISPs), Bharti-British Telecom (Bharti-BT) has made moves to acquire two portals.
Bharti-BT is India's third largest ISP with a subscriber base of 50,400 retail customers and 44 corporate users as on December 1999.
According to a report in a leading business daily, Bharti-BT has outlined plans to acquire two portals, with added focus on lifestyle and games. Earlier, it had already bought out a portal - teenfunda.com. In addition to the above, Bharti-BT has its own portal - mantraonline.com.
Earlier, Satyam Infoway (SIFY) had acquired IndiaWorld in a US$ 115 m deal that sent shock waves through the ISP community. Then, many had thought that an ISP's interest in a portal was a one-off thing, but Bharti-BT's overtures towards portals signals the onset of a trend that is very common in the USA.
AOL and Microsoft both large ISPs in the USA, have portals to boot, which draws a large number of visitors to their sites. These companies which began as Internet access providers, saw synergies in becoming content-providers. The frenzy to grab eyeballs (read visitors) has driven a lot of ISPs to acquire portals at eye-popping price tags.
This was alien concept in India, until SIFY's acquisition of IndiaWorld. Now Bharti-BT wants to hop onto the ISP-Portal bandwagon. Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (VSNL), India's largest ISP has already sounded out its intention to become a major portal. It is only a matter of time before other ISPs like MTNL make a beeline for portals. Apart from the ISPs, other portals like rediff.com have also sent out strong signals indicating that they are also very much in the race for portals.
The scenario at present is that a lot of companies are setting up portals with the sole intention of being bought out by another portal/ISP. These portals are trying to clock as many page views as possible (mostly from non-resident Indians) so as to command a price that will draw the highest bidder.
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