India Inc lines up for custom web addresses


12 Jan 2012
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India Inc lines up for custom web addresses

With internet addresses being opened up to whatever you want it to be and not just plain old .com, several large Indian corporations are seeking custom web addresses such as .tata, .infosys or .reliance.

First phase of the fight for internet's new prime real estate came to an end on Thursday when internet's administrative body Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) shut down the application window for registering new generic extensions - say .bank or .mumbai. Names applied for will be revealed on June 13.

Applications for these names can only be made by internet domain name registrars accredited by ICANN. One such registrar, - India's largest domain seller company - has invested $30 million in this new gold rush and has applied for such extensions as .Web, .Bank, .Online, .Hotel, .Music, .Loan and .News.

Such extensions are expected to be highly sought after by corporations operating financial services or media, entertainment and hospitality sectors. At least 25 large Indian corporations have applied for custom brand extensions, according to some ICANN accredited registrars from India that ET spoke to.

"This is once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will change the way we use internet. It is not going to be available again. We have invested about $30 million and applied for 31 strings which we think can house attractive businesses in coming years," said Bhavin Turakhia, 32, chief executive at Directi.

Delhi-based Net4, an ICANN approved registrar, has applied on behalf of 17 large Indian corporates, who want to own their brand just like a .tata or .reliance.

"These are large corporations with market cap of at least Rs 25,000 crore. We can't disclose names due to non-disclosure agreements. Some of the corporate are also interested in making a business model out of their brand extensions," said Jasjit Sawhney, chairman and managing director of Net4.

Each application to ICANN costs about $1,85,000, in addition to $2,50,000 to be given as bank guarantees that a company can sustain the domain over next three years. So far, ICANN has reportedly made over $350 million in fees for applications filed.

Industry watchers also say that many small companies are applying in anticipation of the profit-making opportunity, much like cyber squatters of the 1990s, when individuals and firms would register unused domain names - celebrities, or brand names - that may be in demand in future.

"There is a likelihood of serious contenders for .Music or .Hotel domains. Large corporations may try to wipe out competition by offering generous amounts to smaller companies who may want to exit after making a profit," adds Sawhney.

For applicants it's a sunk cost if they get rejected, lose in the auction process, or don't make money on arbitrage, by December, this year.

Ditrecti's Turakhia is floating a new subsidiary Radix for the application process. In the race to acquire prime domains, he would be locking horns with the likes of the American Banking Association, which is in contention for the .Bank domain extension.

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