SunBiz, Monday, September 18th, 2000
Free web hosting - but what's the catch?
Revenue to come from providing additional fee based services.
By Oon Yeoh
KUALA LUMPUR: E-solutions provider, iRepublics, is offering web-hosting and email services to Malaysian SME's and SMI's at no charge. So what's the catch?
"No catch," says iRepublics CEO Leng Kean Meng. What he plans to do with this free web-hosting scheme is to expose local SMI's and SME's to the Net and get their employees comfortable with using e-mail.
He hopes to make money by providing additinoal fee-based services such as "Instant-Web" packages, customized web design services and e-commerce enablement, which are optional.
The instant packages comes with web site templates for six pages of content, six photos, and a feedback form. Companies that want more sophisticated web sites can engage iRepublics (www.irepublics.com) to provide custom web design, systems integration and e-commerce enablement. The e-commerce engine will be the same used by iRepublics' Value-i-Store (www.vis.com.my).
Companies that have employed iRepublics to build custom web designs include Tetra-Pak (www.tetralinxx.com) and Swan Malaysia (www.stabilo.com.my) whose website is still under development.
But, as economists like to say: there is no such thing as a free lunch. And there isn't: although the web sites are not required to carry any banner ads, the web-based e-mail and SMS services will come with banner ads, which is another way iRepublics hopes to make money.
It's still a pretty good deal though. The free web-hosting package includes 20 Mb disk space for web hosting; 30 web-based e-mail accounts (10 Mb per e-mail account); free SMS messaging; 24-hour ftp access, and pre-defined CGI scripts.
Best of all, companies can have their own unique domain names, allowing them to preserve their own identities. Most free web-hosting services such as Yahoo's GeoCities require companies to incorporate the web hosting company's name in their url's.
Leng says that a typical web page with a couple of photos takes up about 30 to 60 kilobytes of space. So, with 20 Mb a company's web site should be able to contain several hundred pages of content. Additional disk space as well as extra e-mail can be purchased at a nominal cost.
Companies will, however, have to register their domain names. This can be done through INTERNIC for .com, .net, and .org; or with MYNIC for .com.my, .net.my, and .org.my. Annual fees are US$26 (RM98.8) and RM100 for INTERNIC and MYNIC respectively.
iRepublics' e-commerce integration and web design templates were all developed in-house, according to Leng, a graduate of the Wharton School of Business. He is also working on developing a logistics and delivery infrastructure so that iRepublics can also provide fulfillment services.
"Fulfillment is a problem in Malaysia because unlike in the US, there is really no low-cost courier service that provides tracking facilities." Leng said that he hopes to solve this problem by collaborating with foreign delivery companies or "possibly creating a solution" himself. However, he acknowledges that the lack of a critical mass of e-commerce consumers makes it difficult for any courier service or delivery company to offer low-cost solutions in this market.
With interest in Internet business booming in Malaysia, many "dotcom enablers" haev emerged in recent months. Some, like eOneNet, are offering web design templates at a low cost while others like HooHaWap are offering web and WAP page builders on a ASP (application service provider) model. Leng figures that by giving free web hosting, he will be able to stand out above the crowd.