“Free email is an extremely commoditized environment without any real business model” [Interview]

Earlier today, Times Internet Limited, the digital arm of Times Group announced that it will shut down its free e-mail service from February next year. The media conglomerate had launched free e-mail service in 1999 and then relaunched it in 2007.

In a quick Q&A with Jai Vardhan of NBW, Archana Vohra, Vice President, Times Internet Limited explains why the company decided to pull the plug on its e-mail service.

What led you to shutdown the Indiatimes mailing service from 2013? Was it because of low usage and lack of monetization capabilities/opportunities?

The decision to shut down Indiatimes email was not an easy one, since it was one of Times Internet’s first properties in the online space. But free consumer email is an extremely commoditized environment without any real business model. We don’t expect to lose much traffic by discontinuing email because most of our regular users visit us for the content and services we offer.

Times Internet’s expertise is content. We have over 30 million unique visitors on a monthly basis, and we are focusing our efforts on making more engaging services for our users. Services like Gaana, BoxTV, Itimes, and Times City complement our flagship sites like Times of India and Economic Times.

What will Times Internet focus on over the next few months essentially – are you also planning to trim some fat (some more offering/products of TIL)?

Times Internet’s focus as a digital company is to build great products and we will continue to proactively invest in doing that. Indiatimes Email shutdown is not a trimming exercise but a clear business decision where we are choosing to focus our energies on newer and different products. The internet is a fast evolving environment and being the largest player in the space we will innovate and dabble with new products and technologies. Sometimes we will succeed and sometimes we will not, but the joy and the drive is to keep on experimenting and building.

Future strategies of Indiatimes?

As you are aware we have just launched the new Indiatimes in October 2012. The site is doing well and growing. We also launched Times Rewards on Economictimes.com a few days back, the ET portfolio tracker is live, so the focus is on creating user focused products and enhancing consumer interaction.   We are also aggressively focusing on the Mobile space and over the next couple of days, you will see the launch of multiple nifty applications from the TIL portfolio so watch this space as we build bigger and better…

Meanwhile, the ecommerce arm of Times Internet Ltd, Indiatimes Shopping claims to have crossed 5.3m unique visitors in October and is now bigger than Snapdeal and Homeshop18. “Yesterday we did our 2nd 2Cr sales day,” says TIL’s Chief Executive Officer Satyan Gajwani. The shopping site has also progressively added multiple categories like Fashion, Apparel, Health and Beauty, Baby, Toys, Flowers and Gifts.