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Home > City Resources > Computers and Internet > Interview
     
N SHEKAR ON E-BUSINESS IN INDIA
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Chennaibest.com speaks to N. Shekar, President, E-business, Satyam Infoway Limited, about Satyamís e-business initiatives, and the current state of e-business in India.

Can you tell us about Satyamís e-business initiatives?

www.sify.comThis is an SBU (Strategic Business Unit) within Satyam Infoway. Satyam Infoway is primarily looked upon as an Internet infrastructure and solutions company. On the Consumer side, we are into the portal sify.com and access through Satyam Online. Then we have the cyber cafes I-way. On the corporate end, we have corporate connectivity and e-solutions. As a group, we basically do end-to-end solutions for our customers. Starting from consulting to solution selection, development, deployment depending upon what the customer chooses. Also ongoing maintenance, consulting, connectivity and hosting. We provide the best of breed solutions to our customers with our services on top of that. We have relationships with companies around the world; companies like Sterling Commerce, Open Market, Broadvision and Commerce One to give these solutions to the Indian Market. We also have what we call domain experts from various areas like, FMCG companies, Manufacturing companies and Banking companies. We also have pure marketing people for marketing on the web.

When it comes to E-solutions what kind of customisation are we talking about?

If you take a Sterling Commerce solution, itís basically used by distributors, partners and the company's external branches. So it provides what you call an application-to-application integration. Any application on the field can actually communicate with an application on the back-end, without any human intervention. To do that, it uses electronic data interchange, which is based on templates and standard formats. While standard formats are the same across any company, the applications are different for each company. Or the kind of data that they want to exchange can be different. So we do a little bit of customisation there. We develop what we call as custom templates for each company. Thatís from the data integration and data interface application from the supply chain area.

ISince these are web-based solutions, every web solution has its own personality, like the Ford website. So that personality has to come out. There I wouldnít say customisation, because that was developed from scratch. Even though the functionality can be similar, for example, every bank will have a certain level of transaction, but how you present the transaction, what goes around it, what do you do, to maintain the customer, once he comes, (what we call customer stickiness) this varies from bank to bank. So the customisation is lot more on strategy, relationship and to some extent development.

When you look at Doordarshan, itís a complete web strategy. So we have to develop from scratch as to how they can run a business on the net. So we brought in the idea of how can Doordarshan leverage its properties? Properties here mean, their channels, the archives they have, plus whatever they are going to do to move forward. How can they leverage all that and come up with a solution that appeals to their customers, thereby providing a revenue stream. So these are examples of how we work with our customer. There is no standard solution; the solution is only one part of it. There is a lot of value-added service that comes along. All the way from conceptualisation to redefining their strategy to consulting to implementation, all these areas. Depending upon the customer we might get engaged in all these areas or a few of these areas.

How well is the e-market place concept working with organisations? Is this happening in India?

N ShekarOne key thing for a market place is liquidity. Like in the stock market, if there are only 10 stocks, nobody is going to buy. You need to have a huge number of stocks for both retail and wholesale buyers to come and buy. In a marketplace also a similar thing needs to happen. As far as India is concerned, we are still at the starting point. But it will probably move faster than the rest of the world, once the momentum picks up. Today, itís more of customer acquisition, more of education and more of getting used to the idea. Whenever a new market or shopping mall comes up, you go there a few times before you start buying there. The same thing will happen in market places. But globally, in B2B marketplaces and B2B enterprises, solutions will have a lot more interaction in terms of transactions when compared to B2C. From a marketplace viewpoint it is still the beginning. It will take till the end of 2001, before we start seeing transactions. Today people are going there to find out what is going on, to interact with each other, to find each other, before they can start transacting. In India people are not used to doing transactions without face-to-face interaction. In international markets there is what you call a lot of electronic fund transfer. Electronic instructions are given. People are very comfortable with that. Here itís going to take some more time.†

What are the technological limitations placed on e-business processes today?

More than the technological limitations, itís the mindset limitations. Most of the customers believe that they have to do e-business, but they donít know how to go about it. The good news is that it is not like those ERP days, when ERP was really hot, but it was constantly handled by IT.† In the e-business scene, CEOs of most companies are talking about it. But when it comes to actually putting the money where the mouth is, it becomes a bit difficult. Because these are big projects. The stage is still that of education. Fortunately we are working with some organisations, which are educating customers as to why they should not ignore this media.

E-business is not going to replace your current business. Thatís very clear. In fact, we tell them e-business is another channel for you to leverage, how to get to the customer, how to meet the customer, how to keep the customer, how to service the customer. It provides you a more efficient way of doing that. The important thing is to understand how they can leverage better their current offline business to the online activity. Thatís where most of the education is happening right now.

We did e-strategy for one of the companies many months back and we recommended a certain step, and still they have not done anything about that. They have even gone to the press saying that Satyam Infoway helped them in doing that, but they havenít done anything yet. Each company is at a different stage in terms of adaptation. It does require investment, may be not as significant as an ERP implementation like SAP or something like that, but it does require significant investment. So itís not the technological limitation. Itís more of a mindset. Its more of a, "Will I be the first guinea pig?" kind of worry.
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