Sabeer Bhatia, the Bangalore student who with a colleague invented the iconic Hotmail e-mail service and went on to make a fortune by selling it to Microsoft, is returning to fix what he describes as a “neglected stepchild”.
Mr Bhatia, now a serial technology-entrepreneur, will on Monday unveil his first attempt to “enhance the Hotmail experience” since selling for $400m his stake in the company he founded in Silicon Valley a decade ago.
Mr Bhatia will be in India to announce the global launch of blogeverywhere.com. Users of the website will be able to download a toolbar that allows them to write and publish their own blogs, while also giving Hotmail users faster access to their messages.
Blogeverywhere’s toolbar will download unread e-mail messages and store them in a local cache while a first message is being read. Users will then be able to access unread messages from their computer’s own memory instead of having to retrieve them from the internet.
Mr Bhatia believes the technology will cut down the lag time internet-based e-mail users experience in developing markets such as India where high-speed internet access is not widely available for the country’s estimated 250m online users.
Mr Bhatia has invested $5m from his personal fortune to develop blogeverywhere over the past two years. The idea was initially conceived by Shiraz Kanga, an Indian former software developer with Cisco Systems.
Mr Bhatia’s new venture is his first since investing $8m of his own money – along with $7m raised from financial backers – in Arzoo, a virtual classroom of free-lance academics and computer specialists who answer questions on IT problems encountered at home, or in a large workplace. That venture, however, ultimately flopped as a business.
Mr Bhatia is not alone among US-based IT entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in turning his attention to India and bringing funds to develop ideas in a country seen as one of the largest potential online markets after the US and China.
Pramod Haque of US-based funds Norwest Venture Partners and Vinod Khosla of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers are among the investors supporting Indian technology ventures.
Mr Bhatia will also on Monday launch an internet telephony service similar to Skype. He says he is in talks with four Indian telecoms companies that could enable PC users anywhere in the world to call a land line, or mobile number in India for Rs1 (US$0.02).