Rediff.com is planning to get into the group buying space, the companys CEO Ajit Balakrishnan told MediaNama on the companys Investor Conference call on Tuesday. Responding to our question on whether Rediff intends to compete in the deals space, Balakrishnan said “Certainly, the GroupOn type of thing is a natural for us. We’re a natural inheritor for that kind of business, but wait for that announcement, we’re not ready yet.” Balakrishnan didn’t comment further on Rediff’s plans, but we do agree that this would be a good fit for the company. Here’s why:

Rediff does have a play in the e-commerce space – it runs Rediff Shop & Gift (previously Rediff Shopping), which essentially serves as an online marketplace for offline retailers. For group buying, it already has a large network of retailers that it can tap for offering deals on its site. Compared to other group buying sites that have spent a lot on marketing and building their base, Rediff doesn’t need to spend on getting users: it has a substantial user base visiting its site.

Additionally, it is in a position to leverage the social nature of its platform: last year, Rediff had launched MyPage, allowing users to create public profiles for themselves, and connect with other users. In the process, users have added significant contextual information about themselves, and this can help Rediff serve deals to them, on the basis of their demographic profile, preferences and more importantly, location, on their MyPage, or, for that matter, use some of that empty white space it has all over the site.

It’s not that a horizontal portal hasn’t attempted deals before: Indiatimes* was among the first to launch a couponing site called ActiveDeals, but it has remained something of a stepchild: there is no integration with Indiatimes Shopping, or for that matter, any presence on the Indiatimes Homepage. Also, looking at how Rediff can leverage MyPage, I don’t think Indiatimes did the right thing by launching a separate social network in iTimes, instead of making its own site social.

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On the call, Balakrishnan was dismissive of competition from upstart e-commerce portals like Flipkart. “I personally don’t believe…you know the online books market in India is really minuscule, and it’s really tiny, and it’s not going to make a difference one way or another.” When we pointed out to him that Flipkart had launched other products (like Mobiles, Books, Movies and Music), he said “It’s not a central concern for us, having long pioneered the ecommerce business in India, and we’re content to bide our time and do the right thing.”

More from the call later

Disclosure: Indiatimes is an advertiser with MediaNama