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HT Media Launches Classifieds Site AskHT; Conflict Of Interest?

 (With inputs from Preethi J)

askhtSomeone at HT Media must have misplaced strategy hat: they’ve launched a free online classifieds website called AskHT. AskHT is powered by OLX Classifieds, and features city-wise classified listings both in Hindi and English. While we like the fact that the site has listings both in English and Hindi, we don’t quite understand the rationale behind this launch:

— AskHT.com features jobs listings – and hence has a significant overlap with Shine.com, run by FireFly e-Ventures, an HT Media subsidiary. Shine, as a brand, was recently extended to print – every Tuesday, HT publishes Shine Weekly as a supplement with Hindustan Times in Delhi, and includes jobs from Shine.com. According to an internal mail circulated by FireFly business head Amit Garg, Shine Weekly will extend to other editions, and the Hindi newspaper Hindustan. Shine is HT Media’s job classifieds brand, and most of the Rs. 35 crores that HT Media has invested FireFly e-Ventures, has been in Shine.

What we don’t get, is that when you are in the process of launching classified verticals online – Real Estate, Jobs, Matrimonial etc, why would you also launch a free general classifieds site with the same as segments?

HT already has a free classifieds website – HTClassifieds.com: HTClassifieds.com doesn’t appear to be in use, but it is a free classifieds site like AskHT. The difference between the two is that the HT Classifieds has a paid option – users can book print classified ads, while AskHT does not. Perhaps HT Classifieds is no longer going to be the “Official Hindustan Times Classifieds on the Web”, and will eventually redirect to AskHT. Doesn’t AskHT sound like an answers site like, say, Yahoo Answers

Also, based on the terms and conditions, this appears to be an HT Media site, and not a FireFly e-Ventures site. Terms and conditions for Shine indicate it is a Firefly e-Ventures website. We’ve sent an email to Amit Garg, Head of Firefly, for clarification.

— Q3-09 HT Media Call: On Shine, Consultancy Fees, Private Treaties & Newspapers
— Q3-09 Results: HT Media Profit Down 52%, Firefly Gets Rs. 14.5 Cr; Metro Now

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