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Other portals in the trenches
While Catcha.com works feverishly for the battle ahead, others have been digging in the trenches for some time.
Computer engineering graduate Liew Chew Keat chucked a US$42,000 a year position in San Francisco to come home and found the MyCARI.com ("cari" means search in Malay) portal in June 1996.
Three years on, Liew still employs only four staff in Penang and one freelancer in Kuala Lumpur while banner ad revenues fluctuate from month to month. "Our advertising revenue is very unstable. Some times it reaches over RM20,000, sometimes nothing!" Liew said the site derives more modest and stable income from hosting.
Slow progress, however, has not prevented the portal from having a small but loyal fan base with 2.5 million page views a month. "We have about 14,500 listings now and 95 percent are Malaysia-related. We add around 150 new links per week," he said.
Apart from its search engine, MyCARI.com and its local mirror Cari.com.my count the free classifieds and matchmaking sections as the more popular.
Liew seems unworried by the entry of new, more aggressive players and foreign brand names. "I like to think of myself as a warrior, and for any good warrior--no war, no fun!"
He does not believe Yahoo and Lycos will carve up the traffic and advertising pie, leaving local players with the crumbs. "They may have advantages, but I would like to think we are creating our own new pie and we will all have a share of it. The Internet is growing at a very fast pace, faster than any company can manage to take over the whole pie that continues growing," he said.
Liew added that his company is also actively seeking partnerships with other players to grow market share.
In July, MyCARI.com struck a deal with Skali.com, another portal player to market their brands together at a newly created page called Cari@Skali and share the banner revenue generated from there.
Skali.com, operated by Alam Teknokrat Sdn Bhd, was also an early player in the portal field in Malaysia, having acquired the rights to host the AltaVista search engine in Asia two years ago.
Aimi Aizal, Alam Teknokrat's director of sales and marketing, agreed it is tough for an Asian Web site to build a brand name in a largely English-based medium, but "it is not impossible. The game plan is to employ the right operational and business model. Do creative marketing and promotions for the brand and build up a community of loyal users".
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