A different blogosphere in India

Updated: Mar 31 2008, 04:30am hrs
Kamla Bhatt, is a researcher and a technology trend watcher. She is also the host of a popular Internet radio show: http://kamlabhattshow.com

In my previous column I highlighted the evolution of corporate blogging in the USA, but what I did not mention is that currently a little over 10% of Fortune 500 companies have corporate blogs and that number is growing. There is an increasing realisation that corporate blogging can help bridge the gap between companies and their stakeholders like their employees, customers or investors. As Rajesh Lalwani of Blogworks points out, Corporate blogging allows a faceless entity to become real and allows companies to build trust through transparent conversations. The key words to focus on are: transforming a faceless entity into a real, live and breathing entity and that I believe can only come from sharing and having conversations. That transformation of a faceless entity comes from unlocking and opening that black box called corporation. Are corporations ready for this So far it appears to be a mixed bag.

Now cut to India and you get a diametrically opposite view of corporate blogging. Indian companies have barely scratched the surface and discovered the value created through corporate blogs. It is early days yet and the large corporates are yet to adopt them in a big way, but it has been adopted by entrepreneurs on the other hand, says Lalwani. And he might have a point there. Lalwanis observation is echoed by Kiruba Shankar, who helps clients with their blogging needs. Shankar says, Corporate blogging is still in its infancy in India. Whenever I speak with heads of corporations, they say that blogging is important but very few actually turn those words to action.

A quick survey reveals that there are just a handful of companies that have good, effective corporate blogs in India. The trend in India appears to be polarised at the two ends of the spectrum as Lalwani identified: corporate blogging is undertaken by companies with deep pockets or by entrepreneurs of tech startups. Companies with deep pockets include Infosys, Wipro, Accenture, Frito Lay, and then there are the startup blogs from well-funded startups like Cleartrip (http://blog.cleartrip.com/) AskLaila (http://blog.fourint. com/ ) and others.

When you drill down into some of the Indian corporate blogs you discover that each one of them has a different aim and purpose. FritoLay, a division of Pepsico, seems to have started its blog early on but appears to use its blog as a marketing or PR tool.

The Infosys blog seems to be aimed at educating and creating awareness about the nature of the flat world. Occasionally you will see postings from Infosys honchos like Nandan Nilekani or Kris Gopalakrishnan. And then there is Wipros newly launched campus style blog called Wipro Camps Arena (http://www.wipro-campusarena.com/) that is aimed at recruiting freshers into the company. Accenture has an excellent set of blogs (http:// careers3.accenture.com/Careers/Global/Blogs_Pod_RSS/blogs/) that provides a 360-view of the company right from recruiting to different areas of practice.

Cleartrip, a travel portal and Ask Laila, an information search company write and share information about their product, services, new features and feedback from customers. In some ways these two tech startups are using their blog as a marketing tool to discover what new features, add-ons or changes their users might be looking from them.

The purpose of corporate blogging, as Lalwani points out, can be an effective tool for internal collaboration, communication and learning and create transparency and a human face, and this is an idea that Indian companies need to warm up to.

Clearly, there is a need to create awareness and reach out to the employees and customers in this connected world, but I wonder if there are alternatives to corporate blogging in India Could it be that the profile and demographics of the Indian workplace requires a different approach Consider this: about 500 million people in India are under the age of 25. What are the tools and what is the medium that appeals to them Could social media tools like Orkut, Facebook, MySpace be the alternatives for Indian companies

Kamla Bhatt can be reached at kamla@kamlabhattshow.com