Portals Are Passé , Says Sify; To Focus On Consumer Services

Sify CEO Raju Vegesna faced a tough question on their portals business during the earnings conference call – about why they haven’t decided to sell the portals business, and whether they’re looking to sell it in 2008? Vegesna was guarded in his response: “People are interested in our portal business, and there’s the potential for an expansion. We’re always evaluating opportunities, but at this point we don’t see any attractive price for our portals business.”

What he didn’t say, of course, was that Sify isn’t looking to exit the portals business. The question probably arose because of a marked change in strategy for Sify’s consumer services division, which the company agrees is still “a work in progress”: Sify is looking to change the way it delivers content to users, and instead of operating as a portal and ISP business, they are developing an integrated platform for delivery of consumer services. The integrated platform will include multiple content services including ecommerce, elearning, entertainment and online gaming. The services will be provided to consumers via broadband, at standalone public kiosks in malls, hotel rooms and wifi hotspots. Not learning from its past mistakes (franchised route to broadband was riddled with quality of service issues), Sify will also partner with franchises on a revenue sharing basis. They’re also piloting a wireless broadband project in Bangalore with 200 subscribers, to test feasiblity, quality amd market acceptance. During Q3, Sify formed alliances with Redbus and Yatra for enabling online travel.