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Manning traffic in the virtual world

In a little corner of the virtual world, the chief executive officer of Sulekha.com provides people with contacts and solutions to everyday problems.

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Julie Merin Varughese

Updated: Mar 16, 2018, 03:13 AM IST

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As a child, Satya Prabhakar’s ambition was to become a traffic cop, manning signals at the crossroads to enable vehicles navigate smoothly.  Today, he along with his 600-strong team, indeed regulates traffic, but of a different kind.

In a little corner of the virtual world, the 44-year-old chief executive officer of Sulekha.com provides people with contacts and solutions to everyday problems.
The only difference is more traffic in this job isn’t an ordeal, but a proof of his success.
Prabhakar has found success through bringing e-commerce and social networking at the fingertips of internet users in India, US and Canada.

In 2001, Prabhakar quit his plush job in AT&T and launched Sulekha.com in the US with his wife Sangeeta. “But I have no regrets,” he insists.

The site received an investment of $5 million from Indigo Monsoon Group for his venture in 2001. It was initially launched as an interactive portal where non-resident Indians could meet and discuss common India-related themes.  Sulekha currently has over 6 million registered members spread across 44 cities in India, the US and Canada.

The portal was launched in India in 2005 as a classifieds service. It received a funding of $10 million in 2006 from Norwest Venture Partners. It currently has offices in Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai and New Delhi.

According to a survey by Business World magazine in 2007, Sulekha.com is one of the top six Internet portals in India in terms of total page views (unique pages viewed per user per day).

The portal also has tie-ups with companies like Sify, Spice Telecom, Vodafone and Reliance Mobile to integrate its local commerce services. This enables the site to send details of a service to the user through SMS and email.

The portal’s revenue model is based on value-based pricing. Sulekha.com provides advertising space to businesses, and based on the response that a particular advertisement generates, the portal charges a fee.

“This model proves very beneficial to small and mid-sized businesses,” Prabhakar says.

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