Yahoo's best year in a long while

Written by Darlington Jose Hector | Darlington Jose Hector | Updated: Sep 30 2013, 18:38pm hrs
Marissa MeyerYahoo's journey in India seems to be getting better after Marissa Mayer?s appointment as global CEO. (Reuters)
Yahoos journey in India seems to be getting better after Marissa Mayers appointment as global CEO. For Hari Vasudev, head of Yahoo India R&D, this has certainly been so. In his assessment, the last one year has been an amazing year of innovation for the company, after Marissa defined a strategy outlining a structured approach with different phasesstarting with people.

Our first priority was to attract and retain top talent by being the absolutely best place to work, says Hari, who needs no introduction in internet circles in the country. Once that was addressed, we started focusing on launching some cool new products, inspiring and entertaining our users' daily habits. Our focus will continue to be on mobile and personalisation.

Over the past few months Yahoo has delivered new releases of Yahoo! Mail, Weather, Flickr, a new homepage and new advertising formats. Weve achieved renewed traffic growth in the last few months and while there is still a long way to go, were off to very good start. Globally, and in India, our focus remains on making our products mobile-first, and making sure experiences are modern, intuitive and personal, explains Hari.

Marissa has been a major influence, says Hari. The 38-year old Marissa has not only led Yahoo to acquire micro-blogging site Tumblr in a $1.1 billion acquisition, just the most notable in a series of buyouts, but has also addressed HR issues, by changing the companys maternity leave policy by lengthening it, besides providing cash bonus to parents.

Thanks to such measures Yahoo is in a very happy place today. And Hari is loving this change. Yahoos monthly active users are up 20% to 800 million globally, including 350 million monthly active users on mobile.

Apart from being Yahoos India R&D head, which is the the second largest R&D centre for the company worldwide, he also leads Yahoo Answers & Yahoo Groups products globally. He has been with the firm over six years and has held various leadership positions within the platforms and search teams in the organisation.

He had also previously headed the cloud platform group at Yahoo India R&D.

My biggest challenge right now is balancing the two roles that I haveas the product leader for a vertical area and the head of the India R&D centre. Leading the R&D centre in India requires me to manage deliverables across functionsbe it product teams, or facilities or HR or finance. I need to make sure that as a centre we remain laser focused on our priorities. This often involves acting primarily as a facilitator, persuading peers and representing the centre externally.

This is very different from my other role as the product leader for Yahoo Answers and Groups, globally. My priority in that role is to make sure that we build highly successful products that inspire and entertain our usersbe it through advanced features, deeper mobile integration, better personalisation or faster performance.

Yahoo today is not just a portal. It has become one of the worlds largest digital publishers and offer a gamut of products and services. At Yahoo, we are at the centre of peoples digital daily habits whether its email, online news, finance updates, photo sharing or online sports. Be it Yahoo! Mail, or Flickr which is the worlds largest photo sharing site, or Yahoo! Weather app which recently won the Apple Design Awardwe are constantly innovating to make sure that we retain and grow highly engaged users. Our goal is to deliver engaging, personal digital experiences which wow our users, says Hari, fully convinced that the company is well on its way towards a rapid turn around.

Indias R&D talent has been growing. Engineers, product managers, designers and scientists are increasingly getting curious about trying out new things and solving big problems. This is true not just in computer science or the internet domain- but, overall, in the space of technology and engineering. At Yahoo!, we do a lot of work with premier technology campuses in the country and I must say that the quality of talent has only become richer over the years. The one challenge that I sometimes see is that engineers, students and researchers in India dont do nearly enough to put users first when it comes to building product experiences.

At Yahoo India R&D, this point has been hammered home, he says. Indian talent needs to become more independent in its thinking with a focus on rapid delivery. That will allow them to translate their innovative ideas into successful products in the marketplace.