AOL launches India portal

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NEW YORK - Time Warner Inc.'s AOL Internet unit will launch a version of its portal in India on Thursday, including sections devoted to Bollywood, Cricket and international music.

As part of AOL's global expansion plans, the new site, AOL.in, will have tailored entertainment and news and feature much of the same features from its U.S. site AOL.com, such as free access to E-mail, instant-messaging and mobile services.

"India is one of the world's fastest-growing online markets and our India portal will help us compete for users and advertisers in this important region," Ron Grant, president and chief operating officer of AOL, said in a statement ahead of the official launch in Bangalore.

The launch comes after an overhaul of AOL's business model last summer, when it decided to give away most of its services for free to boost online advertising sales, which it expects to grow on par with the overall market this year.

Underscoring the importance of India to its global expansion, AOL named Maneesh Dhir in January to oversee its international operations.

Citing a report from Kaufman Brothers, AOL said the India market had about 45 million Internet users in a population of 1.1 billion at the end of 2006.

The report projected the region's Internet usage could double to 94 million by 2008 and triple to 147 million by 2010.

AOL also said it plans to test a new version of AOL.com with 5 percent of users that will let them customize pages.
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