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Directory service loses its way

AFTER little more than one year of operations in Perth, the office of Singapore-owned eGuide.com.au has become virtually deserted.

The Internet directory service reduced staff numbers to skeleton levels last week in a bid to see out difficult trading times.

Although the website itself continues to operate, its operator and parent company, eGuideaust.com Pty Ltd, has decided to halt all but essential operations at its Subiaco office.

eGuide accountant Vivian Sin said the company would operate with just two administrative workers, and that any decision to add employees was not likely until a review of operations was conducted in the next few months.

She said eGuide’s sales had not been strong in recent months and the company’s Singapore-based management team had decided to reduce staff numbers in Australia in the hope that conditions would improve.

Ms Sin said the eGuide offices in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand were performing well and had not needed to reduce staff.

eGuide Australia - the fourth of the eGuide websites in the Asia-Pacific region – was launched in Perth in March 2001, having been incorporated in July 2000.

The website was intended to display Internet-based directories to provide visitors with information on products, services and contact details of business entities in various industries.

In Australia, the site claimed to list about 1 million businesses.

Ms Sin said eGuide had no intention to pull down the Australian website and would not shut its Subiaco office completely.

“You can see the industry’s pretty quiet at this moment, so we’re just going to downsize for the moment and in the next six months we’re probably going to look into our business strategy and maybe reopen again,” she said.

“We’re still keeping our customer database, we still have to service our existing customers but we’re not going after more sales until further notice.”

eGuide derived its revenue from selling promotional space on its pages.

Businesses could pay a fee to register with the website, which would place hyperlinks to their websites in its various directory

lists.

Many businesses paid eGuide up-front for three-year promotional deals and the company was still signing such agreements at the end of 2001.

eGuide also offered website design and hosting services but these too have ceased.

Rumours circulated last year that eGuide Australia was negotiating to sell its director service to Singtel.

Singtel was, at the time, bedding down its acquisition of Cable & Wireless Optus.

The Optus service did not offer

a directory service, online or otherwise, similar to the Yellow Pages.

Other online directories have not been particularly successful in Australia either.

HBF is believed to have considered whether to discontinue its AskTed website, and in February this year, Fairfax sold its CitySearch directory to Telstra’s Pacific Access subsidiary for $20 million after spending millions of dollars to establish it.

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