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October 14, 2015

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Here's the The Lowdown from DN Journal,
updated daily
to fill you in on the latest buzz going around the domain name industry. 

The Lowdown is compiled by DN Journal Editor & Publisher Ron Jackson.

What Makes .Desi Desirable? An Inside Look at an Undiscovered TLD That Represents Millions of People Worldwide 

As you all know hundreds of new gTLDs have been released over the past year. Most of these new extensions are popular keywords or locations that anyone would recognize - things like .news, .photos, .miami, etc.  One of the few that I didn't know the meaning of immediately was .desi, so when I was in India in August for the DomainX conference I was intrigued to see a .desi booth where the TLD's Co-Founder, Sid Ohri, was answering questions about the extension.

I learned that Sid has lived in the United States (Washington D.C. area) for 34 years, having moved here from India with his brother back in 1981. Sid's personal status is a 

.Desi Co-Founder Sid Ohri at the 
2015 DomainX Conference in Bangalore, India 

perfect example of what "desi" is all about. He explained, "Desi is derived from Sanskrit and refers to the culture, people and products originating from the Indian sub-continent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka).  The term is used affectionately by the South Asian community to indicate a connection."

Ohri has a specific vision of the role .desi can play on the Internet. ".Desi is a platform for communication – it is a way for people to make their statement, to do and accomplish things that they were not able to do before," Ohri said. "Currently, there is no clear platform to unite the desi community. This is where .desi comes in as a way to involve groups of people 

from our extended community that may already have an online presence, but are not connected to each other."

"Through the .desi community, we are hoping to promote real sustained growth for desi-focused businesses and organizations around the world – whether the goal is to find the local desi grocery store; to help desi businesses in the subcontinent get with the e-commerce revolution; or get that desi blogger showcase her brand to desis around the world."

With its broader scope, Ohri thinks .desi offers a versatile alternative to the region's local country codes, like India's well-known .in ccTLD. "Our view is that a .desi domain provides a clear voice for the desi community to showcase what is important to them globally," Ohri said. "Using a ccTLD or other hyper generic TLD is fine for localized messaging but does not necessarily translate outside of a limited area."

"The desi world is large and segmented. Desis come from different national, cultural, economic, educational, and religious backgrounds – and there are many ways to be a desi and express a desi identity," Ohri noted. "With all this diversity, there was no obvious place to go online dedicated to the promotion of desi culture and business, no real place to show desi pride.  The new .desi creates one platform, one unified way of being connected to the global desi community while maintaining the diversity of what it means to be a desi."

"For the desi student in Washington, London, Sydney – wherever he or she may be – the .desi online community will make it easier to connect to his or her roots and find desi communities abroad.  For the desi shopkeeper or restaurateur in Toronto or Durban, having a .desi domain will make it easier to reach out and be seen by members of those growing community (and anyone else who is a fan of South Asian cuisine).  For desi service and community organizations in Nairobi, having a .desi will help them preserve their traditions – both local and international – and pass their 

DomainX attendee Pradeep Kumar wearing a 
.desi T-shirt at the 2015 show in Banagalore.

culture and languages on to future generations, linking in with a network of similar organizations everywhere," Ohri said.

"Perhaps most importantly, on the individual level, .desi creates a platform to express yourself and your heritage.  For individuals across the world and in the sub-continent, your .desi personal domain is a positive, affirmative statement of your desi pride. It is the place to reflect your unique, dynamic desi identity, your social vision, and your hopes for the future."

While Ohri has lived in America for decades his family has maintained their connection to the country of their birth. "In the U.S. there was always some “desi-ness” around us but, in truth, it was very difficult to maintain our roots," Ohri said. "One way we found was to connect through entertainment: Bollywood, festivals, music, etc.  But we knew there was more out there – more connections around culture, but also around business, about the issues that members of the global desi community are facing, about our hopes for the world.  So, for us the idea of creating .desi came about as a result of our own personal experience, as a way to connect desis around the world to culture, social projects, and most importantly, to each other."

"We recognize that people everywhere are searching for a sense of connection and belonging.  At the same time, we know from our own personal experiences that people are not just one thing or bound to one place. A big piece of our motivation for the creation of .desi came from our own life stories of being desis outside of the sub-continent – embracing our homes in the United States but with a strong desire to share and maintain the many positive aspects of our desi culture with our friends and especially with our children. We are excited because we believe that .desi can help members of our extended community to lead a positive life with connections to the past and an eye on the future."

While .desi has a natural constituency, the extension faces the same hurdle all new gTLDs must clear - making the public aware that the extension exists. As of this writing just over 2,000 .desi domains have been registered according to NTLDStats.com. I asked Sid how they were tackling that problem. "Initially, we spent a lot of time early on working on our channels and establishing reseller and registrar relationships," Ohri said. "Traditional outlets like trade shows, promotions and online campaigns were the primary awareness mechanisms used in the last year."

"Now, and going forward we are expanding the messaging and focusing more on grass roots efforts in getting the word about the .desi domain to our end customers. We have engaged a marketing firm to 

DNJournal's Ron Jackson (center) visiting Sid and Bhavna
at the .desi booth at DomainX 2015 in Bangalore, India.

develop and execute a global campaign, focused on the major desi communities around the world and in India.  We also have partnered with some highly visible desi personalities to promote .desi globally.  And finally, and most importantly, we feel our success will be when businesses and people are successful when they use the .desi domain to perpetuate their brands – as such part of our grass roots effort is working with and promoting some of these businesses using the .desi extension."

While the game has barely begun, .desi has been in general availability for a full year now so I asked Sid how things have gone to date. "The first year was really exciting but we have a lot of work left to do.  After 12 months we definitely have gained a better understanding or the market and what success will look like." In closing Ohri said, "Certainly, the registrations to date are not where we would like but we know the opportunity is still there and have worked out a plan to generate more awareness.  We are looking forward to executing our plan going forward."

(Posted October 13, 2015)

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