Indian social site Sulekha gets $10M from Norwest

Sulekha.com, one of India’s bigger social networking sites, has raised $10 million from a leading Silicon Valley venture firm, Norwest Venture Partners.

Sulekha provides Indians with 1) a networking component, meaning blogs and groups, and 2) an online marketplace for things like movies, events, travel and news in each of 25 cities. These cities are in India and in other cities with large Indian populations. These local sites also have small business listings — effectively local yellow pages directories, which most Indian cities don’t have yet.

It was founded in 2001, became profitable by 2003, but then took $4 million in a first round from individuals and has expanded aggressively at a minor loss since then, according to chief executive Satya Prabhakar. It is making millions of dollars a year in revenues, he said, but would not elaborate. The revenue is a mix of advertising and marketplace transactions, he said. He said there up to three million small businesses in India, with few places to list themselves or advertise.

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We checked out the site, and noticed how different the visual experience is from U.S. sites. We got a somewhat annoying — in our opinion at least — repetitive audio-video ad (click on image here), though it went away after we started clicking some of the regional sites.

Norwest’s investor, Promod Haque, said he liked Sulekha because there is no other company with its breadth, only individual companies trying to bite off niche pieces of its offerings.

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