Monday, October 8, 2007

Review of the first Search Camp event in Chennai, India.

The Knowledge foundation India (a non profit organization) has to be congratulated for organizing a very successful Search Camp event. It’s really great to see Search Marketing events happen in India. Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) has conducted some really great Search Marketing events in few major cities of India (in last two to three years). SEMPO also (under Vivek Bhargav and Gulrez of Communicate 2) has started Search Wednesday Mixers. However the SEMPO event happens only in Mumbai (as of now).

Coming back to Search Camp I was asked to be on the advisory board after I got a call from Mr Sukumar. He was an old client who worked with us regarding his project. He is part of the Core team of the Knowledge foundation. After that I interacted with Durga who kept me updated of the schedule and I also got a call from Ezhil Raja two days before the conference.

The first day was ok but majority of discussions were focused on the Paid side (PPC or Search Engine Marketing). Mahesh from Pinstorm gave a good presentation (but to be honest Mahesh is a great speaker – just like Vivek from Communicate 2). You give these guys a microphone in their hand and they can keep speaking – without boring the audience. It’s a natural talent both of these guys have.

I was on a panel that was supposed to discuss “Search Marketing – Inhouse or Outsource”. However most of the panelists were for outsourcing of Search Marketing. Kiruba (he was the host for the event – a very nice person with the right amount of humor) asked me and Vikram (from Efficient Frontier) if either of us would speak for doing Search Marketing in-house. Both of us said that we have to be truthful about our opinions and hence would support outsourcing. Luckily C. R. Venkatesh of Dot com Infoway said he would oppose. Also Kiruba did a great job of turning the audience against the four of us who were supporting Outsourcing.

I had to leave an hour after my session, but others enjoyed networking and had a blast. However, by the end of day 1 and beginning of day 2, the whole event was overshadowed by SEM and there were not enough sessions on SEO. It is at this time that we had an absolutely great (and funny) presentation on Black hat SEO by Ezhil Raja. You had to be there to see the digs he took at all Google, Yahoo and MSN (He called MSN the Spam search engine – it had me in splits).

Also Prasanna and Saravanan of iLink Systems had a session on PPC management and strategies. I guess a few people liked this session as can be seen in this post.

During lunch at day 2, I was talking to Sukumar and Kiruba when few others joined in and Kiruba started a discussion on entrepreneurs and how they leave their job and start their own companies. I told him that I started my first company when I was in college (about eighteen) and that I was rejected in the first two job interviews of my life!

After Panel discussion on day 2 an impromptu SEO discussion was started (because the organizers were also fed up of SEM sessions). I was not there but Vivek and Gulrez from Communicate 2 said that they loved that session. Also I got a feel that lot of people in the audience themselves knew a lot about SEO.

Among the interesting people I met at this conference were three people from the Search Quality team of Google. I had some good discussions with Vivaik. I have posted it separately over here.

I also had some good discussions with Rajesh Sule from Position 2 (we first met at panel discussion at SEMPO Wednesday mixers on “Creativity in Search” – both of us were on the panel).

I also had sometime to talk with Mahesh Murthy (from Pinstorm) before he left to catch his flight on day 1. On day two I kept bumping into Vivek and Gulrez from Communicate 2 and Vivaik from Google Search Quality team.

I was a bit surprised when I kept bumping into people who knew eBrandz. Rajasekar of Sify told me that he loves our website and follows some of our own rankings. I also met a SEO professional from Hyderabad at Chennai airport who said that he follows our work. He thought that the owner of eBrandz was a 45 year old guy (I am 27 years old).

It was really encouraging to see a good audience at the Tidel Park in Chennai even on Sunday. Even amazing was the fact that 90% of the audience was from outside Chennai. I don’t remember, but this made someone comment to Kiruba that there is life outside of Chennai. The Auditorium at Tidel Park had great Air conditioning (much needed for the guys from Mumbai) and also had Wify connection from Sify. A Lot of people were surfing the internet while listening to speakers and cross checking some of the things they were saying.

A few of us from Mumbai told the knowledge foundation that another such event should definitely be planned (in Mumbai). They were going to discuss this Sunday evening. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

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