This week, we have a very successful entrepreneur and an equally successful blogger. He is the Co-founder and CEO of hover.in. He blogs at Trak.in which is one of India’s most successful Business Blogs. Here is the brains behind hover.in and Trak.in – Arun Prabhudesai. Read what Arun has to say about Startups, blogging in India and much more…
Q: When and why did you start blogging?
A: My first post was written in the last week of April 2007, however, officially Trak.in celebrates its anniversary on May 1st.
There were couple of reasons why I started blogging. Firstly, I was in US since 2002 and wanted to come back to India and start something of my own. I also needed to keep abreast with the latest happenings, to understand the opportunities that were cropping up here.
Thats when I started blogging to share my point of view on knowledge I had gathered.
Also, at that time, there was no other Indian blog catering to this space. so I jumped in 🙂
Q: What topics do you generally blog about?
A: Trak.in started as a business blog that presented my point of views on latest buzz in India that was purely analytical in nature. However, over a period of time it has evolved to become much broader than that.
Trak.in has lot of subscribers who are Indians living abroad and want to come back. I receive so many emails asking for help and information on how to get (business) started in India. So a lot of my posts are also informative reports that give them purview of current situation in India.
Q: Do you ever get stuck when writing an entry? What do you do then?
A: Ohh…that happens far too often with me. I dont know whether it can be called a writer’s block, but many times I am just not in the frame to write – and I don’t.
The good thing is that trak.in has good community – when I am unable to write, I request one of our regular visitors or guest bloggers to write a post, and more often than not they are happy to do so.
I ensure that I do not post something just for the sake of it – Only if I am happy with what is written does it get published on the blog
Q: What promotional techniques work best for you and why?
A: I am sure you must have heard this often – Content, content and more quality content. That is the best way you can popularize your blog. Yes, you also need to take care of other things like SEO, but all that comes later. If you have quality content, traffic will come.
Thats exactly what I try to do with trak.in – Write good content – I don’t use any other specific promotional techniques.
Q: How important is it for the blogger to interact with their readers? Do you respond to all the comments that you receive?
A: It is extremely important to interact with your readers – that’s how you build a loyal readership. I don’t (or can’t) respond to all the comments, as there are far too many. But yes, any comment that is thoughtful and brings in a different perspective than what I have written gets my attention and I do make it a point to respond. Generally I respond to 3-4 comments on average daily.
Q: How, in general, would you rate the quality of Indian blogs? Share your favourite five blogs.
A: As of today, India does not have any blog that is followed internationally except Labnol. Indian Blog Ecosystem is still evolving. The idea that one can blog for living is still not there in India.
When I started blogging, I used to follow lot of blogs, but in last year or so, the number has come down drastically. My feed reader has less 15 blogs in it.
Some of the blogs that I follow which are written by Indians (but may not be an India centric blog) are:
- Anil Dash
Latest Post: In Defense of the Punditocracy
- Sramana Mitra
Latest Post: TiVo Set To Benefit From Growing IPTV Market
- Amit Agarwal
Latest Post: Got 9 Friends? You can get Windows 7 DVD for Free
- Ashish Sinha
Latest Post: @Startup Forum – Payment Gateway Recurring Payment tool, Revenue Model..and more
Q: What do you find to be the most gratifying aspect of blogging?
A: They are the “Thank You” mails from people who tell me that the posts that I have published have helped them a lot. It makes all the effort worthwhile.
Other aspect is the exposure that a bloggers get, especially if you are a popular.
Q: Do you earn revenue through your blog? How does one go about it?
A: Yes, I do earn revenue from my blog. Its simple, if you have good traffic, revenue will come. And for good traffic you need good content.
A: Yes, that’s right. When I started getting traffic on trak.in, I wanted to have a monetization channel other than Google Adsense. One aspect about adsense is, it sometimes turns off visitors from your blog.
hover.in, being an in-text customized content and Ad delivery platform, helps bloggers to add revenue to their blog by showing in-text content & ads, without taking any real estate on the blog. hover.in automatically hyper-links keywords chosen by the publisher and shows relevant content & Ads when visitor hovers over that keyword.
Q: Not many know that you a photography enthusiast as well. There are many photo walks happening and you take an active part in most of them. India with its beauty all over, which are the best places and the best photos which you have captured. Can you share your experiences and a few photos with our readers?
A: Actually my love for photography started when I went to U.S and over years it has become kind of a creative outlet for me. Unfortunately, after coming to India I am unable to spare as much time as I would have liked. My startup and my blog keep me amply busy. 🙂
Q: Many Indian companies were not affected by recession and a few of them posted profits. How does a startup survive in such times and what goes into making a startup a success in the long run?
A: You know for a startup it does not really make a difference unless you are out in the market looking for funding.
Startup Entrepreneurs are by nature frugal (they don’t have an option), and that’s what keeps a company afloat during tough times – Conserve cash as much as possible, cut expenses wherever you can and offer equity to employees. Recession is actually a good time when a startup can get talented people on board.
It would not be prudent for me to write on how to “make a startup a success in the long run“, because there are 100s of element that go in a startup success. Good Product, Investment, Market size & need, competition etc. etc. All these ingredients have to come together in right proportion for a startup to be successful.
Having said that, for me the most important aspect for a startup success is PEOPLE. If you have right people with right knowledge & attitude, you have already won half the battle.
Q: ‘India in 2020 – A Report’ was one of the posts that caught our eye. What’s your vision about India and which startups do you think will be a name to reckon in 2020?
A: It will be very unfair for me to talk about certain startups only, but if I’ve to name a couple of startups that have some real potential are LearnNext, Tringme and off-course my own startup hover.in . All these startups have a differentiating product in their own domain area . Having said that it is difficult to give a long term perspective on any startup, as market conditions (aka need/requirements) are changing very fast. The startups that will continuously evaluate will be the ones who will have a great chance to be successful in future.
One other Indian company (not a startup) that I think of is Zoho. That is the name to reckon with even now and 10 years down the line might be as well.
Talking about Vision for India in 2020. The current and the most important thing for us now is the Internet (read Broadband) Penetration which is extremely low. We have 10 different posts at Trak.in talking about Internet Penetration. We are moving ahead albeit slowly. Government is trying to push ahead. TRAI has recently declared that 2 Mbps is the minimum speed to be called as broadband. This is where government needs to start.
About Startups: Like I mentioned earlier, innovation will be the key. The Startups need to evolve themselves continuously with the changing market conditions.
Q: Trak.in is one of the top business blogs in India. You were having a successful career in the East Coast. What made you think that you need to return in your homeland and start Hover apart from managing Trak?
A: 2 reasons: There are abundant opportunities in India currently and my love specifically for Pune. I have been born and bought up here. I am a social person by nature and all my family & friends are here. I will always prefer my children growing up here in India and have the same values that I grew up with (although, things are changing, India is getting too westernized too fast).
Q: What is your advice to someone who wants to start a blog?
A: Don’t start a blog just because everyone else around you is starting. If you are unsure, start micro-blogging on twitter/Facebook etc instead. That is far more gratifying than blogging.
90% people tend to quite blogging in a month or two, primary reason being no traffic. If you want to start a blog, be patient, write consistently and passionately.
Most importantly, dont compare yourselves with other bloggers and worse never try and copy what other bloggers are doing. That will not take you anywhere.
Q: Let’s conclude off with a few favorites.
TV Show: Prison Break, Simpsons
Time of Day: Aha…its Night time 🙂
Thanks a lot Arun for taking out time for this wonderful interview. Budding entrepeneurs and bloggers would have got a lot of insights from this wonderful interview. Do drop in your questions and feedback. We would love to have them.