There is hardly any urban youngster who doesn't blog these days. Infact, there are many who make money from blogs by selling information or advertisement space. But 22 year old Rajiv Dhingra went a step further and built a business model around corporate blogging and social networking.
When Vijay Mallya launched Force India, he also started a social Networking site called Club Force along with it. He wanted to build a community of team fans, who will loyally discuss all the happenings relevant to Force India. His executives hired Mr Dhingra's small firm WAT Consult, to do the job.
The challenge thrown at him was that in a market dominated by ORKUT and Facebook, why would anyone want to join yet another network to discuss something so niche? How could club force create enough buzz to be noted in this multitude?
Mr Dhingra's seven member team huddled in their two room office and brainstormed. Eventually, they came up with a plan. They figured that it would be easier to build a community on a popular social networking site like Facebook. Once a critical mass of, say, 1000 users were built, it would be feasible to migrate the group to club Force, provided there is a strong value proposition in that. Armed with this strategy, WAT has built 'The Force - Force india F1' group on facebook. At present, the group has 962 members.
Within weeks, the second part of the plan will be implemented. WAT is a company that believes youth understand youth best. All teams members are about 20 or 21. Each grown up using internet and took to blogging like fish to swimming. " We are young ourselves and I understand what an 18, 19 or 21 year old wants and does. I feel the impact on the youth myself. We also understand the platforms that these people are interacting on. We appreciate what the technology brings to the youth and the consumer. A 35-40 year old brand manager may not see this value. This is where we position ourselves," says Mr Dhingra.
And the strategy worked. A top internet portal, conscious of its youthful following, gave Mr Dhingra his first order a yaer ago, based just on a presentation. The next day, he hired his first employee and gave wings to his business dream. or about six months before that, he had run Watblog, dedicated to Web 2.0 trends and WAT was only a natural progression.
Using the know-how of the latest in internet technology and knowledge of the user group, WAT Consult has also guided the marketing efforts of companies like HSBC, NOKIA and Frito Lay. Setting up corporate blogs is a large part of what WAT Consult does, and Mahindra & Mahindra is one of its most prominent clients.
"Social media optimisation and corporate blogging market is a nascent market with a huge space to grow. The presence of corporate blog or on other blogs is like non-paid publicity. They are not paying for advertising or PR and it is therefore non-paid. We are capitalising on telling a corporate how to use this," he says.
The parent brand is WAT Media and has a range of services for free: WAT blog, WAT Show (video) and now WAT Cast (podcast). All these services depend on the consulting business for support. The company had a starting year revenue of Rs 22 lakh in 2007. Except for borrowing office space from the flat owned by Mr Dhingra' father, it has been completely self-funded.
"Five to ten years from now, we expexct the internet to be prime medium and we aim to be the thought leaders in this space. We know this will be a challenge as the generation which grows up with this meduim is likely to see the gaps in it before his seniors"Mr Dhingra says. "As a 27 year old then, the 20 year old will be the challenge.
The author of this article is the cheif editor in the Economic Times and the article appeared in one of their successful columns called "Starship Enterprise".