Organised by DNOAI [Domain Name Owners Association of India] at the Marriott Hotel Convention Centre at Hyderabad on the 7th of September 2014, the DOMAINX conference was a grand success even before it began. Looking at the awesome speakers, the venue and the scale, it made me wonder why the organizers did not charge for it. DOMAINX, probably the best Domainers event ever had made my Sunday, the best in the recent past.
How things rolled out…?
As a close associate and an internet buff looking forward to ideate and innovate in the virtual world, I went across to the Marriott to get a first look. And viola, at 08:30 AM on a Sunday morning, when Indians are only contemplating getting out of the bed, I see volunteers’ busy printing cards for the participants. Realising that I was an early bird, I decided to help them with their efforts and so I did plunge myself into the role.
As the ball rolled, the attendees poured in and by 10:00AM we had about 250+ of them milling around. Counting in the late-comers, my estimate of the total numbers would be around 400. This in itself is a great feat for a Sunday conference in the lazy city of Hyderabad. The interest it has generated was awesome.
It was heart-warming to see that most attendees were young, probably in their 30’s [exuberance, dynamism, energy in the right mix] and most of them were male. I did check as far as my networking went that most of them were not actually domainers. Not until the end of the day, did it dawn on me that these were future domainers who had come to understand how things work in the industry.
While the objective of DOMAINX was to bring awareness and educate people about the domain name industry in India, the objective was then best served to develop the right environment for investment and monetization in the domain name industry by inclusion of young entrepreneurs as I had observed above. Most of the attendees were actually SME’s on the internet like me and the camaraderie was just awesome to say the least.
The Speakers and the agenda
Things began on an auspicious note with the chief guest – Vinit Goenka (National Co-Convener, BJP IT Cell. India Head for verticals E-Governance, ICT Industry Interface & Policy Issues). He lit the lamp along with the organisers and delivered an encouraging and dynamic keynote to enhance the domain industry’s presence in India and was keen to create a controlling infrastructure to manage the industry within the country.
Vinit quipped after the conference “Domain names are the core identity in a shrinking world where the geographical walls, time and space are collapsing”, he added “India encompasses 1/6th of the world’s humanity and 22% purchasing power but unfortunately development is the wanting need. Indigenous data centres and protocols should be delivered at least to the next generation enabling them to lead the world”. He may have sounded pretty ambitious to the normal attendee, however, this was meant for leaders in the industry who can see the context. As far as I am concerned, he pretty much hit the nail on the head.
15 minutes into the conference, with the inauguration taken care of, a very interesting phase was in the offing – A virtual Keynote by Michael Castello with Ron Jackson. Both these gentlemen don’t need any introduction to the domaining world as such, but for the uninitiated, Michael Castello is CEO and President of Castello Cities Internet Network, Inc. (CCIN) that owns, manages and develops some of the most recognized Geo and Generic domain name brands in the world including Bullion.com, PalmSprings.com, Nashville.com, Rate.com and Traveler.com. He is also the owner of Daycare.com and Adopt.com which he and his wife Sheri Castello founded in 1997. Michael recently sold his domain whikey.com for USD 3.1 million. Ron Jackson is the founder, editor and publisher of Domain Name Journal, the domain industry’s trade magazine at DNJournal.com. Ron began his professional journalism career as News Director of an Ohio radio station before moving on to TV. He spent 17 years as a news and sports anchor/reporter at ABC and CBS television stations in Tampa, Florida. He decided to go solo and opened his own business in 1989 when he rolled out the first in a series of successful record stores. His mail order division became known worldwide as a leading source for music memorabilia.
This virtual session saw Ron Jackson speaking to Michael. Michael shared his experiences and asserted that the Internet is a level playing field and domainers or webmasters have the same opportunity irrespective of their geographical location. Michael also thinks that while buying domains, an emotional appeal should also be considered important. He is of the opinion that parking domains is not the trend anymore and revenues are trending down and domainers should consider building websites on the domains they have, albeit small ones. Ron for his part explained the learning curve he went through and the mistakes he made. Although things have changed since, such mistakes can be avoided by thorough research and reading.
By 11:00 AM, the attendees were engrossed in their own thoughts and seemed to be making plans for the future. However, another keynote by Deepak Daftari saw a lot more interest and concentration. For those who do not know the youngest entrepreneur mentor in the TIE Kolkata Charter Member Group, he is one of the domaining pioneers in India who made it a profitable business model. He has the record sale of Tie.com and he runs a successful education and career placement portal – eShiksha, a All India Executive Resourcing and Head-Hunting Consultancy. He is an Active Domain Investor, an active ccTLD Investor and an Active Angel Investor.
Deepak stressed during his keynote that the most important aspect of domaining is the cash flow factor in order to build a good portfolio. He also laid a great stress on closing deals gathering from his experience of rejecting the USD 3 million offer for his .mobi portfolio and is worth nothing today. His orator ship was awesome to say the least, and swept the audience off the feet in the short time he was in limelight. His experience is very valuable to the Indian domaining industry and as expected, he was mobbed the entire day by the budding and experienced domainers alike.
I met Deepak a while after the session and asked him if there were any hitches in selling .in domain names. He said there were none, however, he promised to look up and let me know later. He later said “more conferences like DOMAINX will generate more awareness and domaining should be looked upon as an investment. This trade is very good for the primary as well as the secondary market and will give exposure to newcomers and entrepreneurs to start their investment portfolio as long as they are willing to put in hard work, time and energy into it”.
With the audience begging for more, 11:45 AM saw Ron Jackson in action again with Adam Dicker. Having already met Ron, l found out that Adam Dicker is “the” driving force behind DNforum.com, which is one of the most popular domain name forums on the Internet. DNForum.com currently has over 155,000 free members, 300,000 paid members and over 1,800,000 posts. Founded in 2001, the forum has grown leaps and bounds. Adam, bringing forth all his experience of conversing with a lot of domainers over his forum, stressed on the need to have varied revenue streams. He also mentioned that he owns a dozen businesses and rakes in over USD 50,000 from each of them. He also discourages domain parking and asked to explore other means of monetization.
At this, with hunger pangs blowing out of proportions, all of us broke for an hour of sumptuous lunch that came with salads for the health-conscious, local Hyderabadi fare for the foodies accompanies by various condiments and coolants. Desert was also local, Indian and continental fare to be chosen as per the palate. Lunch break also saw a lot of networking, in fact, as an introvert; I made 5 acquaintances that I have followed up since.
With the tummy out of the way, it was time for some legal education and consultancy. It was 1:40 PM and we saw Pavan Duggal, Cyberlaw expert of international renown is credited doing pioneering work in the field of Convergence Law and Mobile Law. He heads of his Law Firm, Pavan Duggal Associates, which works actively in the fields of Cyberlaw, Intellectual Property Rights and Information Technology, Information Security law, Business Process Outsourcing and ITES Law, Commercial Practice and other allied spheres. Pavan is also empanelled as a consultant to UNCTAD and UNESCAP on Cyberlaw and Cyber crime respectively.
Pavan walked us through the functioning of UDRP and INDRP and explained the concept of trade marks and avoidance of creating or becoming victims of any TM issues. As always, Pavan was highly articulate and enthusiastic during his presentation and took many questions from the audience. I met Pavan after his speech and had a long discussion on my new idea of domain tasting [this has ceased to exist some years back] through leasing of domain names and the legality of it between domainers. Pavan listened to me carefully and with full attention and said that it not a trodden path but can be done by incorporating certain IT act clauses into the lease.
After 15 minutes of Pavan’s high-adrenaline, the audience was wide awake for the all important Panel discussion on legal issues by Pavan Duggal, Rodney D. Ryder, Harini Narayanswamy, very ably moderated by Ankur Raheja. Having already met Pavan, let’s get to know the others; Rodney D. Ryder is a partner with Scriboard, a full service commercial law firm with cutting edge specialisation in technology, new media and intellectual property laws. He is the author of Guide to Cyber Laws: the Information Technology Act, 2000, E-Commerce, Data Protection and the Internet. He is presently Advisor to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Government of India on the implementation of the Information Technology Act, 2000. Ms. Harini Narayanswamy is an Intellectual Property Attorney with over twenty years experience in IP law. She is a well-known International arbitrator particularly in the area of domain name disputes. She is the first Indian woman to be selected as WIPO domain name panellist, Legal Rights (LRO) expert and Trademark Post Delegation expert by the World Intellectual Property Organization, Geneva.
This was probably the day’s most informative session, moderated by Ankur Raheja. As a panel member of UDRP, Harini Narayanswamy explained the process of UDRP issue decision making with some precise, real life Indian examples. Pavan and Rodney got into some serious in-depth decision making and educated the audience on the 3 basic points of proving a dispute’s existence. Again dotted with examples, this session was very important for domainers, webmasters as well as entrepreneurs alike.
Next on the agenda was the virtual session by Karen J. Bernstein, the Principal of Bernstein IP, an intellectual property firm in New York City. Karen was formerly an executive in the advertising business, a personal manager to a major recording artist and a published songwriter before heading to law school. Karen explained the workings of the UDRP in the continental United States and stated some peculiar examples that were eye-openers to many domainers in the audience.
At 3:00 Pm, it was time for some lighter stuff and the stage was taken by Session by Kartik Taneja (Head – Channel Sales and Premier SMB Partnerships at Google India). Kartik started his career with the TATA group and was with them for 7 years where he worked closely with Small Businesses to help them market their products better using online mediums like Yellow Pages and classified directories. He then moved to Indiatimes.com in order to set up their SME business. During this time he was instrumental in getting 40,000 SMB’s online.
Kartik spoke about the digital future and where we are headed. He laid stress on Google’s efforts to make futuristic products a reality by showcasing Google Glasses and Google’s driverless cars and a few other initiatives. Expectedly, he spoke about nothing but Google. My reading was that it was a much unneeded marketing exercise not relevant in the context of the conference. However, this got the audience mood into a lighter mode and we headed for the tea/coffee break which was used for networking for an hour.
At 4:00 PM all of us got together to listen to the session by Edmon Chung (CEO, DotAsia Organisation). Edmon Chung also heads the secretariat for the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) and currently Co-Chairs the ICANN Joint ccNSO/GNSO IDN Working Group (JIG) and participates extensively on Internet governance issues.
He spoke about how .asia came out with a bang and then fizzled out. How it is doing now and what makes it an important and an emerging player as a domain extension. He spoke about possibilities and permutations that can make .asia domain important for a business, especially with operations in Asia.
04:30 PM, the audience was in for a surprise. We had a session conducted by Ritvik Vikas Mishra (Cabinet Secretariat). Ritwik began his career as an Associate Business Development Head [HR] and went on to work on various World Bank and UNDP projects. He can be best described as a believer and practitioner in the field of Performance Management.
In his own unique and humorous style, he spoke about the present Government initiatives concerning the internet and its efforts in speeding up the spread of internet across the country. He invited ideation and innovation from the audience and promised to put our ideas across to the concerned government authorities.
At 05:00 PM we were back in discussion with one of our own, Mr. Sai Pola being interviewed by Deepak Daftari. Sai is a very well known name in the domaining world and has many interesting domain deals to his credit. Deepak is no less, and he went on to get Sai explain his success in domaining right from his initiation stages. Sai explained and stressed on buying generic domain names to avoid any TM issues and how to get the best sale price for them. Sai also mentioned venture funding for his new venture Domainpros.com and invited the audience to reach him with their domain names to be funded or sold.
The final session began at 05:30 PM and the aprticipants were the Organizers themselves – Manmeet Singh [soofigroup.com], Anshul Goyal [email.biz], Ankur Raheja [cylaw.in], Sibtain Zaheer [easytech.in] & Nishank Yadav [thedomainer.net]. This was the best part of the entire day and to highlight Anshul holds the biggest domain portfolio in the .biz extension with over 20,000 domain names. He personally uses the email.biz site and he is actually making five figure sales on a domain to domain basis.
Anshul Goyal also released the music album “Party Girl” in this session with the stage dancing to a single from it.
All in all, the DOMAINX was a great day for me with requisite amount of information, networking, comedy and music thrown in. The comedy sessions in between the informative ones were conducted by the renowned comedian Dipoo Srivastava & the music was given impetus by his Dance Troupe. The anchoring for the entire conference was ably handled by Jyoti Mishra from ETV.
GoDaddy has provided special codes to buy membership for free to all participants and a few prizes were also distributed through a draw of lots in the form of feedback forms that were filled towards the end of the show.
The main sponsors of this event were GoDaddy and Verisign and they have left no stone unturned in making DOMAINX a resounding success.
Coming to myself, I am no doaminer and I am not trying to comment or review this event [read that as “I am not qualified to do it”]. This one is just a chronology of events and what an out-of-the-domain-industry guy felt attending it. I run a content agency and have been supporting domainers, webmasters, entrepreneurs and SME’s with their online presence and marketing efforts from the last 8+ years.
The entire conference was very well conducted, appreciated by the audience [over 80% were till around when it ended] and I personally feel that more such shows should be conducted to generate awareness and encourage more and more people to brand themselves on the internet.