Just last week our internal office discussion hovered around how PR heavy strategies don’t really work in India, because PR channels like live events, blogs, niche tv, industry publications are not well developed here. People also don’t seem to talk about new products without seeing some major advertising. To get a brand off the ground in India, BIG advertising is needed.

Yet another issue in India appears to be user get user marketing in the early days of a website. What’s the biggest social network in India? Its Orkut. How did you get on? Did someone invite you? No. You got on because you had a gmail id and simply used that to sign into Orkut and after that you searched and added your friends. If you look at Orkut’s fortunes (as reported by Alexa), they really took off after Gmail id allowed Orkut access.

This week we have an example that substantiates my theory. Minglebox has been struggling for a year to get any major traction and giving it company is Fropper.com. Out of the blue comes BigAdda.com and Reliance style plasters billboards all over town. Suddenly BigAdda’s reach (as ranked by Alexa) is the same that of Minglebox and just shy of Fropper, both of which are good mature products. Click here for Alexa’s graph

India is probably the only country in the world where a social networking site has been launched through big money mass advertising. Does it bring about a drastic change in web 2.0 fundamentals which are anchored on user get user and PR? Yes it does. It also spells trouble for start-ups and good news for big boys, which is quite the opposite in the rest of the world.

However there can be exceptions. We have seen Gmail successful adopt in India to large numbers with no ad spend even in the face of advertising (Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Indiatimes Mail, Zapak & Rediff all advertise). But then Gmail is an exceptional product, or like my CTO said “its the only damn mail that’s working all the time”.

So there is hope yet, all you gotta do is build the next Gmail 😉

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