AOL Targets Yahoo, MSN With Indian Web Portal

AOL has launched a Web portal in India, combining services such as instant messaging and e-mail with local content from India's Bollywood film industry and other sources.

AOL's competitors, including Yahoo and Microsoft's MSN division, already have portals in India. AOL will also compete for advertising revenue with several local Web companies.

India's online ad market is worth about $60 million today, a fraction of India's total $3 billion advertising market, although it is growing by about 50 percent per year, said George Zacharias, managing director of Yahoo India, at a press event Wednesday to discuss its mapping service.

AOL also thinks these are early days for the Internet in India. The company will pay close attention to customers and tailor its service to what they need, Ron Grant, AOL president and chief operating officer, told reporters on Thursday. Like its competitors, AOL also plans to offer local language versions of its products, he added.

Producing good content in each of India's local languages can be tricky, however. Yahoo had to apologize last month after a contractor posted recipes from a Kerala woman's blog to its Malayalam-language portal without permission.

AOL's Indian Web portal is the first to offer a new version of its e-mail service that has unlimited storage, auto-reminders of e-mail addresses and mail search, spam protection and mobile access, Grant said.

AOL has been in India since 2002, when it started a customer service center in Bangalore. In 2004 it opened a software development center, and by 2005 it had opened a "knowledge center" for business analytics, search operations and technology support. The company has about 2,000 staff in India altogether.

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