AOL Launches India Portal

This just in: AOL’s India portal – AOL.in has gone live – offering a host of services that, well, we’ve heard of before from other players – email, instant messaging, local news and information. They’ve also launched AOL Messenger, and incorporated content focusing on Bollywood, Cricket, Hollywood, News, Sports and International music. There’s also a CityGuide and a Guru channel with advice from local and international experts. AOL, however, isn’t banking on the Internet population alone – there’s a mobile component, with a suite offers email access via WAP, instant messaging via SMS and the usual downloads like wallpapers, ringtones and games.
AOL President and COO Ron Grant believes that AOL is one of just four companies with the scale, network infrastructure and resources to compete at a global level, and they’re looking to leverage that in India. The others, I suppose, are Google, Yahoo and MSN, though India has its own share of media companies in this space including Indiatimes (owned by the Times of India group) and Rediff. AOL is looking to target an Internet population that a Kaufman Brothers report expects will be 94 million by 2008 and 147 million by 2010.
Update: The City Guide currently features content from Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and both text and video content for Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai. Guru-speak seems to be primarily international, with mostly content from the likes of Tom Peters, Steven Covey, and Indians like Prahlad Rao. Content for AOL Kids is from the other Time Warner co Cartoon Network, and the news videos are apparently from the wires. For mobile, they’re using a short code 51515/16, which I don’t recognize – have they gotten their own? The similarity of the AOL India main page with Yahoo India is striking…… well, the design is similar to the AOL.com design.
Update: AOL has plans for portals in other asian countries, and prefers to remain a portal than launch as an ISP, AOL President and COO Ron Grant tells the Mint. He adds that the company plans to launch services in local languages well, and is also looking at acquiring “firms specializing in communication, social networking and other niche technologies.

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