Naspers owned MIH India (ibibo), which had recently sold stake to China’s TenCent, is preparing to launch two of TenCents products in India – Ibibo Mail and Messenger. I tried out both products today:

ibibo Messenger
Mail integration
Firstly, the messenger is open only to Ibibo users. Having a messenger will probably help ibibo increase interactivity among existing users, and the company probably hopes it will also help drive signups. Like GTalk’s integration into GMail, Ibibo Messenger is also integrated into Ibibo email(screencap).
Security & Cybercafes
What I liked most about the messenger is that, on loading, it gives the user three options for sign-in – for a Personal Computer, Cybercafe and a “message protection mode” apparently for an additional password, local to that computer. This will go down well with people who sign in from multiple machines, and use Cybercafes. However, it will be a challenge for ibibo to get the IM installed in Cybercafes, since some don’t allow users to install software. This is where a company like ideacts (which recently received funding from Sequoia Capital) might play a role for ibibo…and I’m wondering if we’ll see the Internet equivalent of TVs infamous “Carriage Fees” come into play.
Content Integration
I found this the most interesting aspect – at least three of ibibo’s products – Blogs, Sawaal (Q&A), Photos and Opinions are integrated into the messenger sidebar. Here the IM integrates with the website, and opens relevant pages for users to post content to ibibo. I’m not sure if it allows you to post via IM, though (like in case of Twitter).
A suggestion: since ibibo is a community, it would be useful to receive friends’ updates (blog posts, opinions and questions) on the IM as well.


Note: We’ve used four different skins in the images above, just to show the skins as well as features

Monetization
Like in case of MSN and Yahoo messengers a window occasionally pops up with updates from ibibo, with a couple of advertising banners (screencap)
Other Features
Users can set their status to invisible, and the messenger has a “hide” button to make it (almost) invisible. You can also choose different theme colours for the IM, and set skins as well (see some of the screencaps above).

More on ibibo Mail, Bixee & Organizational changes :

ibibo Mail
Many of the features of ibibo mail aren’t live yet, and its obvious that it is still being developed. But there’s significant “bling” on offer for users
– An in-mail music player (but with Indian Internet speeds – nevermind). You can link to an MP3 file (can’t upload, apparently), and as per ibibo, the song will play when the user opens the mail
– Pre-set flash greeting cards
Skins for the site template, as well as stationary for email…as if it’s 2002 all over again.

The site also features a notepad and POP mail. As I’ve mentioned earlier, the messenger integrates with the mail (screencap). There’s a neat “Clean Up assistant” which even points out large mails that users may want to delete; will be needed if people are mailing music. The maximum attachment size is 20mb, and the mailbox size is 2GB

Email appears to be the way to go for web services in India – new services allow you to get email addresses with *your* name. But usage depends on usability and features (now that everyone gives ample space).

Frankly, I’m not much of a person for cards, stationary and flash, but some people do like these features. Do you?

Bixee
The other thing I noticed while browsing through ibibo is that Bixee appears to have emerged as a meta search brand. We haven’t confirmed this with the company, though. What was earlier called Dwaar Travel, is now Bixee travel. Bixee had started as a job meta search engine before being acquired by MIH India, and has also diversified to Education and News. The news being crawled is Multi Lingual – in Telugu, Marathi, Kannada, Gujarati, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil and Bengali.

More interesting is CrawlX – Bixee’s version of Google’s SiteSearch. According to the site, CrawlX categorizes sites or sections of the site into specific verticals (like Jobs and News), and displays content according to verticals. Looks like ibibo is also planning to share revenue with users.

Organizational Changes
Arunava Sinha, Product Head at MIH has joined NDTV Convergence as Chief Product Officer; prior to joining MIH, he was an Executive Editor at India Today, before which he was at Indiatimes. ibibo’s CTO Deepan Bhattacharya has also moved on. Ibibo has been restructured into three divisions – Social Networking & Personal Media, Answers & User Generated Content, and Communications & Search. We were aware of this, and contentSutra had reported it as well.

ibibo, launched in 2006, has hardly had a profitable run, though:

Related: TenCent To Invest $7.5M In MIH India Over 3 Years; Can Acquire Upto 50 Pc Stake