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The auto driver from Chennai who charges Rs 500 a year for online banner ads

by Satrajit Sen

It is not every day that we come across an Indian ‘common man’ who knows about the medium of internet and understands what online banner advertisements are. Chennai-based auto-rickshaw driver M Samson seems to be an exception as he doesn’t only understand the dynamics, but also earns money by hosting online banner advertisements, from local businessmen who can’t advertise in print or TV due to their high ad rates, on his site NetwayAdvertise.com.

by Satrajit Sen

It is not every day that we come across an Indian ‘common man’ who knows about the medium of internet and understands what online banner advertisements are. Chennai-based auto-rickshaw driver M Samson seems to be an exception as he doesn’t only understand the dynamics, but also earns money by hosting online banner advertisements, from local businessmen who can’t advertise in print or TV due to their high ad rates, on his site NetwayAdvertise.com.

While talking with AlooTechie, Samson informed that he charges Rs 500 a year for hosting a display ad on NetwayAdvertise.com. Currently, there are about 15 banner ads running on the site and with that rate, he earns around Rs 7,500 a year from his online advertising business. The expenditures for the portal include a fee of Rs 2,000 per year for site maintenance and upgrading the domain registration, and a payment of Rs 60 to the webmaster for creating and uploading each banner ad.

Now the question is from where did Samson learn about the internet medium? According to Samson, he was first introduced to the world of internet in 1997 by a traveller from Japan who taught Samson how to access and use Hotmail so that he could communicate with his foreign clients, whenever they would want to visit the city. Gradually, Samson became familiar with emails, and also came to know that news and information can be gathered from internet.

In 2006, a British Airways co-pilot, who was Samson’s client then, saw him accessing hotmail and gave him the idea to advertise his services on internet. “Initially, I couldn’t understand how one can advertise on internet. So, my client from British Airways explained to me the concept of a website and how it could be used to communicate across the world. I asked him to help me in setting up the site and he was the person who went back to London and designed the website TukTastic.com for me,” Samson said. [TukTastic is a play with two words Tuk-Tuk, which means an auto rickshaw, and fantastic.]

After the site was launched, Samson started getting a lot of queries on email and SMS from travellers. “Though, I can’t recount the numbers, most of the queries came from the foreigners. But gradually Indians were also catching up to the number of queries. Presently, I get between three to five queries every day,” Samson added. Buoyed by the good response, he now plans to shoot videos of different parts of Chennai and upload them on YouTube and also embed the videos on his site TukTastic.com.

“When I told some of my businessmen friends about TukTastic and explained the global nature of internet, some of them became interested and wanted to advertise their business as well on internet. But they didn’t know where to go. I saw this as an opportunity to earn money and thus launched the online advertising site NetwayAdvertise.com to help my friends,” Samson informed.

Interestingly, Samson has studied only till Standard-VII and before the launch of his websites was leading a very modest life as “the in-city daily wage of an auto rickshaw in Chennai is quite low”. Foreign tourists always visited Chennai but there was no way he could talk to the travellers beforehand and book them as clients. Thankfully, internet happened in Samson’s life and made it easy for him to get in touch with foreign travellers. And now he is also earning some additional money by running his own display advertising business on the medium.

This is definitely an interesting story of how internet can become mass in India. People like M Samson and Devesh Mishra, have already set examples by taking initiatives that were least expected from a commoner. Though, India still requires some catching up to do to come in the league of US and China’s internet population, the first stride, can very well be said to have already been taken.

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