EXCLUSIVE: Russian Venture Fund Launches Local Web Portal in Nigeria
Since August 2010, I’ve had several conversations with Vladimir Mnogoletniy, one of the partners in a Russian venture fund, Moscow-based Genesis Technology Partners, about his company’s interest in the Nigerian Internet market.
Genesis Technology Partners is one of the largest CIS Internet holdings and the largest Internet holding company focusing on CIS-markets and on running websites with local country content including news, classifieds, video, blogs, music, auto, price aggregators, etc with advertisement as its sole revenue model.
As a matter of fact, GenTech runs the biggest local websites in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and the 4th largest local website in Uzbekistan (launched in 2011), which are visited by 10 million unique users monthly.
Last November, I finally met Vlad on a Sunday morning at the Federal Palace Hotel and Casino, Ahmadu Bello Way on Victoria Island to discuss several opportunities around the Nigerian Internet space and advise on the most promising markets or startups they could invest into.
Following the success of one of its online portals, NUR.KZ which was launched in March 2009, entered the top 10 most popular Internet resources by the summer of the same year and by July 2011 became the most visited portal in Kazakhstan, the company is now looking to replicate the same model in Nigeria.
It is interesting to note that Russia and Nigeria have a few things in common in terms of country population and their Internet population. The Russian Federation population is around 143 million people, with about 58 million Internet users monthly, while Nigeria has about 150 million people with about 45 million Internet users.
Also, trying to launch Internet companies in both markets is not that easy, as there are challenges such as language and cultural barriers. However, the Russian Internet market appears to be more matured and is home to several IPO-based businesses like Yandex and Mail.ru.
With the launch of its online news portal called Naij in Nigeria in May 2012, the Russian company is now looking to copy its successful business models with Internet properties in Russia and CIS.
Although the site is still in beta stage, it features primarily news, including photos, music, weather, and a growing community of users who share photos, gifts, etc with their friends.
Already, Naij has become the fastest growing online news portal in Nigeria with Alexa rankings at around 40 (at the time of writing this post) and is expected to launch a number of other new services such as video, jobs, forums, etc soon. It is also likely that the site would include a dating service and perhaps email service in the future.
The site provides news from some of the most trusted sources like Vanguard, but it is unclear if there is a content syndication deal with its news content partners. Although, other content on the online portal are user-generated from its growing user-base.
Like its sister sites in Russia and the CIS region, Naij could grow to become the number one local website in Nigeria within a year or so, as it continues to provide relevant news and information to Nigeria’s growing Internet audience.
It would be interesting to see how the online portal would disrupt the online news space in Nigeria.
Will it eventually displace Nairaland and Vanguard to become Nigeria’s number one news source?
[Disclosure: I have advised Genesis Technology Partners in the past].