Countless new businesses sprout every day and each needs an Internet presence. As strategized in real estate, the stock market and other investment verticals, a premium domain name is a highly valuable asset. As a matter of fact, as long as the internet is growing, domain names might just be the only definite investment there is. The millions of domain names that are bought and sold every year have given rise to an industry of countless domain name investors.
Understanding the science of domain names, how to pick the right ones from the digital vine, can be a bit tricky. But there are a set of rules and if followed properly they can prove to be very lucrative. What if you had a guide, someone to show you the way and make the journey easier?
What follows is the third of the series of ‘How Can You Be a Million Dollar Worth Domainer from Pakistan?’ interviews with the pack leaders of domain name investment industry in Pakistan. We hope it to be an avenue where the new entrants in the field, and fresh entrepreneurs, both can cultivate an insight into successful domain name investment.
We are glad to welcome Mohammad Saeed at the PW Domain Investment Interview.
Mohammad Saeed has an educational background in engineering, and for the last 15 years has been working for the biggest wireless company in the US, AT&T Wireless. Currently maintaining the position of Senior Wireless Engineer in his day job, Saeed has been a passionate domain investor and has been actively involved in the local and foreign domain business. His two decades of experience in the field and the laurels under his belt make him an icon in the arena of domain name investors we have from Pakistan.
What follows below is a candid interview PakWired team (PW) conducted with him. We are grateful for his time, and the knowledge he (MS) has shared with our readers.
PW: How (and when) did you get in the business of domain name investment?
MS: In 1997, a few companies in America like Americaonline and Ebay went public, and their stocks rose up to $400 or even more. At the same time, they began mentioning the word “Domain” in the news more and more. I started thinking what’s a domain? and that’s how I found out about domain names. However, it was very expensive to register back then and cost was $100 per year.
PW: When did you register your first domain?
MS: I registered my first name back in 1997 and it was Malaysiaonline.com, Indonesiaonline.com, Madinah.com etc. Country-oriented words were very popular back then because Americaonline.com had been the first dial-up internet provider in USA.
PW: What is your oldest domain name?
MS: eSatellite.com and Malaysiaonline.com are the oldest names I used and it was in 1997.
PW: How did you think about it when .com was launched?
MS: I had no clue about domain names at that time, however, when I heard about some names that were sold at very high prices and all dot com’s were going public (Stock Market), then I started registering names. It took me a while to figure out how to register and where to register the domain names since there was only Godaddy.com at that time.
PW: How much does a domain cost?
MS: It costs $9-10 these days and it is much cheaper than what it was for registering back in 1997-1998.
PW: What is the market value (both wholesale and retail) of the best domain names?
MS: There is no wholesale or retail market for domain names, as far as I know. There are three kinds of investors these days: End user, Flipper, and Long term. I have sold some domain names for few thousand dollars, such as eCreditcard.com back in 2000. Later, I found out that it was sold for $200000. So that is an example of how there is no fix market value.
PW: What kind of domains are worthless and should be dropped?
MS: Trademark domains are always a big no, in my opinion. Also, domain names which end with 123. An example of this is Charlotte123.com. Other extensions such as .mobi shouldn’t be renewed. I know some .pk names are also taken by companies because of trademark and copyright issues. Examples of these are OLX.org.pk, Youtube.pk, Djuice.pk, Jang.pk, Telenor.pk, Janggroup.pk, thedawn.pk and many many more.
PW: Which domains are valuable, and in what way?
MS: Some of the companies prefer to use a unique name which is a part of their own brand and domain investors won’t register them. Popular examples of these are: eBay, Amazon, Lyft.com, Alibaba. They build a success brand worth billions of dollars and sometimes it makes sense too. If company has their brand name in an .io extension and they don’t own the dot com for their brand, then most of their traffic will go to dot com name because people are used to that format. As an example; Travly.io is the Pakistani Uber but they don’t own travly.com. Eventually they have to buy travly.com against a hefty sum of money to increase their traffic.
PW: Which domain names may invite legal issues?
MS: The domain names which bear the trademark of any other company are an open invitation for legal assault. These companies have so much money to spend on legal disputes, and they will sue in order to protect their brand identity. I registered a domain name back in 1997 and I had to give it back to them. Examples such as eFlora.com, AOLJapan.com. However, sometimes a person can get lucky just like OOGLE.com. The name was sued by Google but Google lost the legal battle in the end.
PW: Which domains deserve marketing efforts to sell?
MS: There are some names which don’t need any marketing, they self-market themselves because there already is an existing traffic and consumer audience. For example, I own Makati.com which is financial hub of Philippines and I get lot of clicks each month. Or songs.com.pk gets about 8000 clicks each month on its own. But on the other hand, there are many names that require lot of marketing like myhealth.pk, all-free-download.com, or hers.pk (pak fashion web site).
PW: Which specialized broker should one contact to sell a specific domain name?
MS: There are some brokers at Godaddy.com or Sedo.com who help you in selling domain names at a good price. Before you sign a contract with the broker, make sure to ask for their credentials. Also ask them how many domain names they have sold and against what price.
PW: How do you discover the perceived value of a domain name?
MS: Doing your own research is the key. I have been doing this by reading various articles on sold domain names and going to different blog websites like DNJOURNAL.com, Namebio.com and domainsherpa.com.
PW: What type of domain names you should consider buying when you’re starting out?
MS: The domain investment business is very tricky and time consuming. You have to understand the industry inside out, and have patience to sell it to the end user. A lot of the good names are already owned by big companies and it will be difficult to buy them cheap. Domain names such as city (realestate.com) do very well because the real estate commission in the U.S. is 6% and you will sell a lot of houses because of a key domain name. There are only few in the U.S left for sale and the remaining are already developed and expensive. I own Burbankrealestate.com which is a city close to Hollywood. The minimal price of house in Burbank is one million dollars, so you can calculate the 6% of one-million-dollar real estate. You can easily earn your money back from this kind of real estate domain name from one house commission.
PW: As a successful domainer, what do you consider to be your essential tool/tools?
MS: I like to review different websites before I purchase a certain domain name. For example, if you are interested in Chinese market then I would check at 4.CN.
For other domain names I like to go to DNFORUM.com, DNJOURNAL.com, Domaining.com, dnprices.com, namebio.com etc.
PW: Did you ever buy a domain just because?
MS: Yes, Halalstore.com, Hujj.com are two of those I bought on an impulse. I did this because the Halal business is growing and I can start my own business on it if I choose.
PW: What has been your biggest sale to date?
MS: Indonesiaonline.com for $100000, Madinah.com for $40000, and F.biz for $35000 and Jazz.pk was sold to Mobilink. I have recently signed a contract with citybrandmedia.com (Multibillion dollar company). They own top 400 dot com cities and they will develop the twenty-one cities dot.com names from the ones I own. Examples of these domain names are Makati.com, Ramona.com, Malaysiaonline.com, Uppland.com (Swiss province).
PW: Now that you look back, what has been your biggest mistake in domaining?
MS: Everybody makes mistakes and I have had my share as well. I have let some dot com names go back in 1997 because of lack of awareness about their potential worth . For example, I let go the domain ZTV.com which could be worth $300000 now and many more just like it.
PW: What are your most favored sites for hunting domain names?
MS: Godaddy.com, DNFORUM.com, Namejet.com.
PW: Which extension/TLD’s are most popular with startups in Pakistan?
MS: In Pakistan, the .pk and .com.pk are both popular. Young entrepreneurs prefer .pk, however, most Pakistani company websites use .com.pk. Most of our new startups are in .pk or .com.pk extensions. I get a lot of inquiries from new graduates about domain names because most of the one word names are gone since 2001 when pknic was launched. Since then, the .pk names prices have be going up. I have also been getting a lot of inquiries about my domain names such as Fresh.pk, Pets.com.pk, Realestate.com.pk, Fixit.pk, Fire.pk, Sehat.pk, and Health.com.pk.
PW: How would you rate the transfer process of domain names at Pknic as compared to dot com transfer?
MS: The transfer process at pknic is very complicated and lengthy. It takes at least 2 months, and in some cases it has even taken 6 months. You have to send them actual signed (notarized) papers to transfer the name to the new buyer. Then from there, they review those papers and keep them for weeks to make sure there are no complaints. However, on the flip side dot com takes few hours to push to another account. This is why pk domains names are not easy to sell because the transfer process takes considerable amount of time. I have had some cases where the buyer changed his mind because of this lengthy process and I had to return the money to him.
PW: What is typically the most active month of the year?
MS: December might be a slow month due to Christmas and the Holiday season, but rest of the year is all good for the domain names business.
Chinese market picks up after their New Year, which is end of January each year.
PW: What’s your advice for a new investor stepping into domaining in Pakistan?
MS: My advice will be to learn and understand the domain business and have lot of patience. Some time you might not sell any domain name for months. Also, always start with few names and don’t leave your regular job to become a flipper.