Local search platform Getit Infomedia (previously known as Getit Infoservices) offers services across print, online and voice media and is present in more than 35 cities in the country. The firm, which is supported by Malaysia's Astro (as a strategic investor) besides VC investor Helion Venture Partners, has recently acquired Infomedia YellowPages and AskMe from Network18 group and has added a new monetisation channel with the launch of its online marketplace Getit Bazaar. Techcircle.in caught up with Jaspreet Bindra, CEO, Getit Infomedia, to talk about the company's strategy, funding, his views on peer group firm Just Dial, which is going through a successful public listing, and more. Edited excerpts:
The company recently got government approval for a large round of funding. What will you use the money for?
This piece of news that came a few days ago is not about a fresh fundraise; it's not true that the funds came through now. Astro (of Malaysia) has been a strategic investor in the company for the last couple of years and it has been funding us over this period. The total amount mentioned in the FIPB approval is for the money that Astro has been and will be putting in Getit Infomedia in tranches. With a strategic investor there is never a format or fixed amount of investment. It depends on the company's plans and requirements. To give you an example, we acquired Infomedia recently. Money was needed for the acquisition and our strategic investor brought in more. However, I would like to add that the space is very exciting; with a recent IPO in the same space, there is a lot of interest. Astro is our investor and is interested to invest more. The FIPB approval just makes it easier to raise money from them.
What about getting new investors on board?
Again, a strategic investor works differently compared with a VC investor. A strategic investor won't just give you $100 million; it is done on regular intervals—month on month or quarter on quarter. Astro holds a majority share in the company.
Currently and in a foreseeable future, we are thinking only of Astro (as an investor). Helion is already an investor. But apart from these, no new investors would be coming.
You have struck a few acquisitions in the recent past. Are there more in the pipeline?
We have been investing in digital and mobile products for the last two years and will continue to do so. We believe that the market is moving towards digital. From an acquisition point of view, we have a vision to grow both organically and inorganically. We just acquired Infomedia YellowPages and AskMe and obviously it will take us some time to integrate the companies. But we will be opportunistic. We are open to consider other similar acquisitions but nothing is imminent.
The local classifieds business has been catching a lot of investor interest as happened during Just Dial's IPO. What do you think is fuelling this?
In many ways it reflects the maturity of the Internet space in the country. Just Dial is only the third substantial IPO in the Internet space after Naukri (Info Edge) and MakeMyTrip. Of these three, two are in the classifieds space.
If we step back and see, Internet businesses are broadly of three models—e-commerce, advertising and the freemium classifieds business. In the advertising space in Internet, the model is either portals or search companies, and those are mostly global; so we are not seeing an Indian IPO in those companies. Second is e-commerce which is passing through its own challenges and while MakeMyTrip had a successful IPO, there is still a long way to go before we see a large Internet commerce company's IPO. That leaves us with our business, which is the freemium classifieds model. It's a known model and there is a revenue stream. There are various examples, even globally, that give it market validation. The interest in this business lately reflects that people believe in the business.
When can we see Getit going for an IPO?
We are very happy with the IPO of Just Dial; they are great competitors and a great company but what this successful IPO will do is make investors notice the local search and classified space. It has also set expectations for us and other players too. That said, currently there are no IPO plans. For now we are focussed on transforming Getit Infomedia to a full-scale digital play. That itself will take two-three years and after that we should consider all kinds of routes, including an IPO.
How big is your database? How many paid customers do you have?
We have a freemium model. The SMEs that list on us pay us. Our database covers more than 6 million SMEs. I can't share the exact number of paid customers but as per the industry average, around 1.5-2 per cent of the total database is paid customers and we stand at the same ratio.
What more can one expect from Getit Infomedia in terms of products?
We have got a host of new products from the Infomedia acquisition such as YellowPages.co.in and AskMe and more. We will be spending our time and resources trying to transform these businesses into the digital format. A lot of these are in print or voice space. Activities are planned in the mobile and social space too. We will be making our products more mobile-friendly and social. We are passing through a transformation and revamping our senior team as well.
Some peers are looking at different models of monetisation with Sulekha pivoting to become a local needs marketplace. What are your thoughts on that business?
We also have a new service in beta called Getit Bazaar. Our model is to bring together SMEs and buyers and then the transaction is done offline. But in Getit Bazaar we are also helping their transactions. Getit Bazaar has around 6,000 stores on it in its beta mode and we are adding about 1,000 stores a month. We expect that in a year there could be more than 20,000 on this particular platform. So on Getit Bazaar, we offer the platform, payment gateway, logistics, etc.
(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)