Google Offers Free Websites And Hosting to Indian SMBs, A Carrot That Will Work Out In The Long Run

Google India has launched ‘India Get Your Business Online’ program that offers free websites/domain names and hosting services to small medium businesses in India.

Our goal is to help 500,000 small medium businesses in India to get online in next three years through this program, with our partner HostGator. Small business owners in India can logon to and use the tool to get a free, easy-to-build website and web hosting for one year powered by HostGator. Businesses will also get a customized domain .in name and free tools, training and resources to succeed online.

As part of this programs, SMBs will get:

  • Free: It’s free to set up your website. The domain is free for 1 year, and it’s free to maintain your website for 12 months.
  • Quick: The website tool takes 15 minutes from sitting down to being found online.
  • Easy: You don’t need to be a tech whiz to get started. All you need to start is your address, phone number, TAN/CIN or PAN to verify you as a business
  • own .in domain.
  • Other features include photos/logos, integration with social media platforms.
  • You get a Google Apps account – free personalised email ids.
  • If you want to make your website work harder, you’ll have access to steady stream of free tips and tools from the Getting Indian Business Online team and a free coupon of worth Rs. 2500 INR advertising trial from Google AdWords to help promote your site.
  • After the first year, SMBs can choose to pay a monthly pay-as-you-go to maintain their website using hostgator.
  • At the end of the first year, they’ll have to pay a nominal charge if they wish to renew their domain name. They can cancel their website at any time.

Why is Google Doing this?

I was product manager for Y! SmallBusiness, a division of Yahoo which solely focused on bringing SMBs online. The major reason why Yahoo was running  a ‘rather’ disconnected unit (heck! no online ads, it wasn’t a content site) was :

1) To bring a lot of SMBs to sell merchant accounts (i.e. sell products/monetize via cut in transaction fee),

2) Get SMBs to advertise on Yahoo search (especially using geotargetted keywords).

While the former didn’t happen at the rate Yahoo probably wanted to, latter had a strong business proposition.

And Google knows this. For Google, the sole reason to launch this program is to:

1. Sell more Google Apps accounts. Get more SMBs to start using Google Apps service (and move away from Microsoft). The earlier attempt by Google (college competitions, partnership with Dell etc) probably has outlived its hunger (for more customers) and Google now needs fresh tools to penetrate deeper into the SMB market.

2. Adwords.  Google needs more and more SMBs to advertise using Adwords programme. A free site/hosting service is exactly the carrot that works in this case.

3. Though not so relevant, but its important to note that Google Plus is now enabled for Google Apps users. For many SMBs, this will be the ‘first’ experience of team collaboration.

Overall, for SMBs – this is a big news, but the important part for Google (and key metrics to track) is managing churn after a year (when the free part gets over).

Google’s Definition of SMB

Importantly, how Google defines SMB is a very key part of this program – and let me tell you why.

– For Yahoo Small&Medium Business, definition of SMB was a unit which is anywhere between somebody working part-time on a business idea to a team of 2-3 people. I did a lot of focus group studies in US and realized that most of these entrepreneurs needed a serious push regarding renewing the service to even updating their website content.

– For Microsoft, definition of SMB typically means a team of 50 people or so (and those who can afford the software).

For Google, the definition lies somewhere in between. In the long run, Google stands to gain a LOT from this initiative as long as they manage to bring a lot of SMBs under this program and importantly, manage churn.

For now, watch this intro video of ‘India Get Your Business Online’ program

What about Zoho? When will they focus on Indian market?


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