SHEKAR ON E-BUSINESS IN INDIA
| 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?
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?
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
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
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.