Saturday, December 10, 2011

How to create a vibrant Domain Business in African names

Domains: African Personal names services
Personal online branding has become quite trendy lately; people are acquiring personal domains with their names to express their identities online through blogs, journals, URL redirection to social media portals, creating online resumes and other personalized portals.

I think there is one underexploited niche that ISPs in Africa could tap into. Yes, I’m giving you some business intelligence, people! This is the business of email hosting and email forwarding for popular African names. Here are some of the most popular names in the various African countries:

Kenya :Atieno, Achieng, Juma,Mwangi, Maina, Kamau,Nzioka, Otieno,Ochieng, Baraza, Koech, Omari etc
Uganda: Kibuuka, Kizza, Okello
South Africa: Zuma, Khumalo, Makeba
Ghana: Boateng

Well am not particularly good with this but African ISPs understand their markets much better than me. So how can these African names be converted into an online opportunity? There are various ways of monetizing Africa names domains to offer users the personal branding that they are currently looking for. The Canadian Domain Registrar Tucows is said to own over 39,000 surnames of popular names like Smith.com, through its earlier acquisition of the internet company NetIdentity that controlled 66% of US surnames. The domains cost NetIdentity a whopping $18 million to acquire!

So the new opportunity is in creating a NetIdentity African version by investing in African names; the cost of acquisition of all the popular African names would be quite costly but I think ISPs can totally dominate their local markets since they understand the local cultures and naming trends much better. As a Kenyan, I can easily identify over 500 common Kenyan names but I cannot do the same for example for DR Congo or Angola, I would need someone with the local knowledge of the country. Believe me ,this is a unique niche that’s open for exploration as none of the English Centric domain investors are seeing these opportunities now.

 After Acquisition:
How do you monetize a Portfolio of African Names? I think the African ISPs or domain investors can adopt the business model used for Tucows Personal Names Services. You can offer emails and web addresses based on your portfolio of surnames:

  • Offer personalized Email Hosting and forwarding to clients who pay for it together with an esy to use email account. You can for example charge $1 per annum for email forwarding or $12 per year for email hosting so clients can choose any of the options that match their email e.g. alex@otieno.com William@kamau.com mike@boateng.me Moses@khumalo.com Angela@muthoni.com Angelica@lerato.com and so on!!
  •  Sell subdomains: ISPs and domain registrars can then sell subdomains like http://alex.otieno.com  http://angela.khumalo.com for as little as $1.50 per annum and still break even. Normally you can bundle these with additional packages such as email, customized web design, email hosting, Wordpress hosting, one click installs as discussed above for say $10 per annum and you have a vibrant new vertical in your business.

There are many advantages to this beyond just the abstract value of personal branding, for one they are easy to remember. If somebody knows your name as Eve Boateng, they can easily guess your email address as Eve@boateng.com . Now problem might arise if someone for some reason chooses to guess a .net .org .me .biz .com.gh  .co.ke email addresses etc. In that case, I think the ISPs can bring a premium product that secures your email and subdomain across all the popular TLDs for a premium fee, say $20 per annum? If you deeply care about your online identity then this should be a necessary cost.

Work can be republished with attribution. Email Us africadomainnames@gmail.com