Internet in India is reaching small towns and the lower rungs of the economic ladder very rapidly, bridging geographical barriers and exposing consumers to the market more effectively than ever before. Brick-and-mortar stores can no longer be sufficient with the significant expansion in the variety of products available online.
This growing digital influence, currently affecting $30 billion of urban consumer spending, makes getting online not an option but a necessity. However, most Indian businesses looking to get a website face a roadblock on the very first, and probably the most important step of getting online – unavailability of the domain name of their choice.
With .COM mostly exhausted and .IN depleting fast, quality domain names are limited and SMBs have to settle for long silly sounding domain names with hyphens, weird spellings and numbers. .IN.NET, the newest extension launched by Radix Registry, provides a way out.
Speaking at the recently held WHD.India 2013, Neha Naik, Sr. Manager, Strategic Partnerships, .IN.NET, talked about how the new extension makes short, generic, brandable, good-quality domain names available to the SMBs and the public at large, at affordable prices.
We sat with her post session to discuss .IN.NET’s roll out plan, application process, marketing road-map and the domain industry in general. The complete video of our interaction is below, and a print version follows it.
– Neha Naik, Sr. Manager, Strategic Partnerships, .IN.NET.
Q: Let’s begin with the first question that’ll pop up in everyone’s mind- Why .IN.NET when Indian organizations/businesses/people have a country specific generic TLD available with .IN?
A: If you look for a really good generic name in the .IN space today, you are likely to not find it. With the one million plus names that already exist in the .IN namespace, businesses and individuals are likely to not get the names that they want.
Some basic research that we have done in terms of check availability data on our own platform shows that about 65 % of check availability results fail, which means that 65 % of the time when customers actually look for a name they want, they find them unavailable.
So I think there is an opportunity to provide customers with more options, more variety and that’s where .IN.NET comes in.
Q: Let’s say an Indian business owner wants to get the domain ‘IndianBusiness.IN’, and he finds it available. What, then, does make ‘IndianBusiness.IN.NET’ relatively more lucrative for him to consider it over the .IN counterpart?
A: If a .IN is available, the customer should snap it up. In no way are we saying that .IN.NET will replace .IN. It’s just another alternative in case the name is not available. So if you are getting a .IN, you are lucky and you should take it up.
Q: Although the official website clearly states that “.IN.NET aims to be a generic TLD for Indians with no preconception of meaning whatsoever, no theme, no categorizations, no restrictions of use,” can you name four types of consumers, that in your personal opinion are most likely to benefit from a new .IN.NET domain?
A: I would not say it has no theme at all, I’d say it’s for Indian businesses that want to go online. It has no restrictions in the sense that technically anybody from anywhere in the world can get a .IN.NET name, but it is meant for those that want to associate themselves with India, either foreign entities or Indian businesses, who want a global presence.
I don’t think that they can be categorized into kinds of customers, but anyone who wants an online presence, be it an individual or a business, can likely get a .IN.NET domain.
Q: What is the marketing road-map you’ve in place to establish a broad-based footprint for .IN.NET?
A: We just launched .PW registry about three months ago, and we have learned a lot in terms of marketing initiatives. Right now we have started an entire PR campaign for .IN.NET across different media, both online and offline.
We were published in Money Control and Hindustan Times that actually carried the launch. As far as social media goes, we are going to go very strong in terms of creating brand awareness, making sure that customers, web service providers and wholesalers actually see that .IN.NET is coming to the market.
With our previous campaigns for the last registry we launched, we generated about 33 million impressions across all our social media campaigns and we expect to continue to do that.
We’ll provide our partners with marketing material that they might need to convince customers. Also, somewhere down the line we will probably also launch promos to make sure that the extensions are well priced, competitive and there is greater adoption.
Q: Can you talk in detail about the rollout plan? Also, how can one apply during the Landrush period and what documentation do they need? What happens if there is more than one Landrush application for a domain?
A: We’ll launch in two phases. We’ll start the landrush phase on the 17th of June and this phase is meant for people who want to get short premium generic names that are available for a limited time because the registry has just opened. Anyone can apply during this period so two people might end up applying for the same domain name.
Let’s say somebody wants webhosting.in.net, and there are two other people who want the same domain. We’ll accept all the applications for this domain name, and they’ll end up going into an auction where the highest bidder will finally be awarded the name. So it’s not a first come first serve process, it actually depends on how the auction goes.
Q: Since .IN.NET doesn’t have a Sunrise period, please tell us your policy regarding:
- Premium domain names,
- Generic domain names,
- and Domain names like ‘ReserverdName1’, ‘ReservedName2’ etc;
will they be auctioned during Landrush period or sold during Genaral availability?
A: As providers for .IN.NET, we will reserve some super premium names to be rolled out in different phases and in a different strategy, but that is going to be a very small subset of names. There are still going to be tonnes of great names available in the landrush that you will probably not get in any other extension today.
So I think there is a huge pool of premium names still available for customers to take. Other than that, when we hit general availability, names will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, and anyone can get any name that they want.
We will plan the roll out phases for the premium names, but haven’t decided on the exact dates yet.
Other than the names that we might put aside as premiums, there will be names that are restricted based on the ICANN rules, registry rules or reserved for registry use etc., so those will be put out as reserved list and will not be available.
Q: What measures are you taking to protect large trademark holders from having their domains squatted?
A: We have built in something called the ‘TM Claims’ process for the trademark holders in the land rush phase when anyone who has a trademark could technically submit their application along with the trademark details and get preference or precedence over anyone else who has applied for the same name.
So let’s say there is a business called India Chemicals and you’re its trademark owner. If you apply for IndiaChemical.in.net and submit your details, and there is another applicant who has also applied for the same name, just because you’ve the trademark application you’ll get precedence or preference over the non-trademark applicant.
So this 42 day period which is the landrush and TM claims phase is also meant for trademark holders, brand owners to protect their brand and ensure that it’s not squatted on by someone else.
Q: Are you offering non-binding and free pre-applications for domain names?
A: As a .IN.NET provider, we ensure that in the landrush, if you get the domain name you pay for it and if you don’t, we give you a full refund, which we pass on to the registrar. So technically it’s a no risk process, you can apply for any premium name or good name that you find interesting and if you lose it in the auction or you don’t end up winning it, you don’t pay for it. But if you are applying as a trademark holder, then there is an application fee that we charge, which is not refundable.
Q: This is a topic of particular interest to all your potential domain investors: Will .IN.NET be treated differently by Google/Bing/Yahoo in the SERPS?
A: .IN.NET does end with the .NET extension and would be treated exactly like any other .NET domain name out there. So if a customer is looking for a global presence and wants to rank well in the global search engines, .IN.NET would work exactly like that.
Q: How can interested people switch their old web address to .IN.NET?
A: Switching over is like you’d switch over from any other extension out there. .IN.NET is just like any other extension in terms of process and how it works over the internet. There is nothing different from handling .IN.NET versus any other extension that they would be moving from. So they basically have to go about changing, adding the required DNS records etc.
Q: Finally, what is your vision for .IN.NET? What should we expect to see in next 5, 10, 20 years?
A: What we envision for .IN.NET is that over the next few months, everyone in India is going to see a splash across social media, online and offline media. We have a registrar channel through some of the Directi’s businesses including ResellerClub, BigRock and the LogicBoxes platform that provides services for over a 100 ICANN accredited registrars. We’re confident that through this channel we will be able to ensure that .IN.NET has visibility and therefore demand created (for itself). We have also been sensitive about pricing and have kept in mind how pricing works in the Indian market.
So I am pretty sure that it will do well. If you ask me for realistic expectations, I am not sure about 5 years down the line, but I would say that we should hit about at least a 100 thousand names at the end of year one.