December 8, 2014 / 10:59 AM / 4 years ago

Huffington Post launches in India, sets sights on China

Arianna Huffington, president and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post Media Group attends a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 25, 2014. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - News website Huffington Post launched its India edition on Monday in a tie-up with media conglomerate Times of India Group, as the AOL-owned site expands into markets where internet use is growing rapidly.

The India edition is Huffington Post’s 13th and follows launches in a handful of European and Asian countries, as well as an Arabic version set to go live next year.

The website, which was sold to AOL for $315 million in 2011, generates revenue through advertising and is crucial to AOL’s shift away from its subscription dial-up internet business.

Internet penetration in India is low, with less than one in four of its 1.25 billion people online, but that number is expected to grow quickly in the next few years as the government improves connections to rural areas and more people switch to smartphones.

“More and more people (in India) are going to be able to access news on their mobile devices,” Arianna Huffington, the website’s editor-in-chief, said at a Delhi launch event on Monday. “It’s a great opportunity for us.”

She is entering a highly competitive market where dozens of free-to-access websites chase India’s relatively affluent English-language readers. The country has 226 million English speakers, according to the 2001 government census.

Huffington, who said India has held a special place in her heart since studying in the country aged 17, has hired a team of eight and plans to expand that to 15 in the next few months to report their own stories as well as reposting news and opinion from other outlets.

The website has also set its sights on China, with Huffington Post Media Group CEO Jimmy Maymann saying he is confident that it will agree a tie-up with a Chinese partner by early 2016.

“We all know the restrictions that are associated with the Chinese media,” he said. “(But) we feel very bullish about China and putting China back on our roadmap.”

Editing by David Goodman

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