Exclusive | Opinion, that matters: MouthShut's Faisal Farooqui

MouthShut.com a user generated content and consumer review website on the Internet is one of India’s largest social network. Members utilize this site to write reviews, share photos and diaries and write about brands and products. This account posts automated summary of interesting reviews  which helps consumers to decide. It is a boon for the potential shopper who can find reviews on every business and brand.
MoutShut.com has won “Best Portal Award 2009” at the first edition of IDMA ( Indian Digital Media Awards).
An entrepreneur and Founder &  Chief Executive Officer of MouthShut.com. Faisal Farooqui is regarded as the man who introduced Web 2.0 concept in India and is a leader in the social media space. He has been invited to teach and lecture on social media market and technology related topics at the IIM Ahmedabad and IIT, Mumbai. Faisal loves to mentor youngsters on starting and scaling their own businesses. “Burn your boats before you start on your entrepreneurial venture” is his valuable advice to them. His thought on integrating consumer generated content with mobile phone and social media has been well recognized at International conferences. 
Adgully spoke to Mr. Faisal Farooqui ,CEO, Founder of Mouthshut.com. He spoke about mobile being the most effective medium today and also about the challenges the digital medium faces and how it can be overcome. According to him the digital divide has to be dealt with to have a thriving digital economy. Excerpts: 
Adgully (AG): Mouthshut has a great equity? How are you looking at strengthening it? 
Faisal Farooqui (FF): We're proud of the trust we have built with those who write and read reviews on  MouthShut.com. It will not be wrong to say that the platform is our greatest asset. We want to continue to help provide tools and content to consumers to make informed buying decisions. 
AG:  What is the USP of the mobile site?
FF: The USP of the mobile site of MouthShut.com is to let people effectively use and access the vast content of the platform while not being on a traditional computer. Certain product categories such as purchase in a mall or eating out - their decisions are made on the go. Mouthshut.com on mobiles will help consumers make timely decisions.
AG: How are you looking at building further engagement with audiences across various platforms? 
FF: The Mouthshut.com mobile site is enabled for smart phones as well as regular phones that may not have the advance features of touch etc. We are aware of the fact that millions of Indians with mobile phones of every kind are looking to read and write reviews of products and services. The endeavour is to keep improving our offerings to further help consumers.
AG: How did the idea of launching a mobile site come across?
FF: We saw a growth of more than 500% per annum in the last one year of people who access MouthShut.com from their mobiles. This convinced us that the mobile site is the future.
AG: Given the fact that the year has been tough, your views on the digital medium being affected?
FF: We are used to tough times. We started when the dotcoms had gone bust, but we survived and then thrived. The year has been tough on everybody but with a well-crafted strategy and conservative spending, we've been able to maintain and achieve our growth targets. The digital medium currently commands a very small percentage of the total media spend by advertisers. In fact we're seeing a shift towards digital rather than traditional print and electronic (TV).
AG: According to you what kind of growth has been witnessed in the last six months in the digital and mobile medium?
FF: The Digital medium is one of the fastest growing medium today. According to some estimates the online advertising segment alone is reported to be growing more than 40% annually.  More jobs are being created in the Internet sector in our country. The Internet has provided a means for many independent consultants and talented people to work from home and contribute to the economy without having to work for a large company. More and more new business are being launched in the digital sector. These are the businesses that will become giants tomorrow.
AG: What do you believe are the challenges that the digital medium faces today and how do we address them?
FF: One of the biggest challenges of the digital medium is accessibility of last mile or as we call it the digital divide. There's still a huge cost associated for an average citizen to get on the Internet in India. 3G is still unaffordable for most mobile users and broadband plans are cumbersome and services unstable. Government and government agencies must push their eagerness to implement a true broadband policy- nationwide. No nation can have a very strong digital economy without a proper broadband infrastructure in place. 

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