The Wired Marketplace

Hindustan Times (Career & Enhance)

Online Shopping may soon become a reality given the revolutionary changes that surface everybody
Different opinions on the potential of e-commerce in india.

The recent pronouncement of a virtual revolution in electronic commerce in developing countries by MIT Media Lab founder and digital pundit Nicholas Negroponte has fanned mixed responses from the Indian IT (Information Technology) industry. While some see much truth in Negroponte’s remarks, skeptics have their reservations.

The next hotbed of e-commerce growth will be the Third World, said Negroponte in a keynote address at an Internet Commerce Expo in Masachussets some time back. For those who may not take him seriously, Negroponte has an argument: “In the wired marketplace the wildly unlikely is rapidly turning into the mundane.”

There’s going to be a trillion dollars worth e-commerce transactions by the end of 2000, guaranteed,” asserted Negroponte. He pointed out that six years ago, when he predicted to “a roomful of Internet luminaries” that there would be some $ 300 billion worth of online transactions within a few years ; ” the whole room started to laugh”. But that figure took less time to realize than he originally thought, pointed out Negroponte.

The developing world will embrace technology in much bigger numbers than is now expected, because it is more desperate for solutions” to problems with its telecommunications, business, and educational infrastructure, he said. “They leapfrogged over a whole level of technology because, the previous system was so terrible,” Negroponte added.

The situation may not be as smooth, fears Deepak Samaga, IT consultant, Genie Interactive. ” The number of Internet users are quite low in the country. Plastic money is far from a norm in India. On the whole, situation is not ripe for e-commerce to take off,” he says.
Differs Prassana Lal Das, Group Manager, Compunnel Software: “There is no question that e-commerce is going to be big in India very soon, and the wave is most likely going to start with travel, entertainment, books and leisure products.”

Whatever may be the reality, the fact is that e-commerce has a lot of potential. In fact, the rate of growth of Internet Users has encouraged many companies to play active roles. “The number of Internet users are expected to grow at a pace of over 300 per cent over the next few years, says Dinesh Agarwal, owner of IndiaMART, a company engaged in spearheading the ‘business through internet’ revolution in India. The company provides a wide spectrum of services in all phases of implementation and integration of Internet with the present day business requirements.

Efforts like that of Agarwal’s are bound to yield results for the Indian markets. The signals have already started coming. ” Truly speaking e-commerce is not very new in India. We did online ordering of cakes and ice-cream using Internet two years ago for Nirula’s,” informs Agarwal. “However, the concept has been able to catch up very recently after opening up of many Indian shopping malls on the net,” he adds.

Sanjeev Ranjan, a software marketing consultant is also optimistic about the potential of e-commerce in India. “We are quite fast at adopting ourselves to new technology and there’s no reason why e-commerce will not become popular here,” he says. Agrees Savita Arya Thakur, project manager, Compunnel Software: “Things are changing at a phenomenal rate and we may soon hit the jackpot,” she exults, adding that “Internet is catching up the imagination of many businesses, small and big. There are many unexplored areas like garments exports where we can do a lot of e-commerce, and I am quite optimistic about it.” Thakur’s company, for instance is engaged in developing a lot of Internet and multimedia solutions, besides software development with a key focus on garments industry.

There is some truth in Ranjan’s optimism as the trend has already started showing up. Go to Indian sites like rediff.com, mantraonline.com and satyamonline.com, and you will find them flooded with e-commerce advertisements. An important factor here is the fact that the sellers market is not confined to India only.

There are reasons to believe that the local vendors will try and popularise e-com in India “because financially they will be comfortable anyway,” adds Ranjan. With the online payment option not being directly available in India, it is the other side of business to business e-commerce where we will see a lot of growth in the coming months. A few examples could be an online bulk ordering system through website, used by retailers to order goods from their principles. However, with the proposed relaxation in the Forex policies by the RBI and increasing PC penetration in the homes, “we shall see a booming e-commerce business,” assures Agarwal.

An important factor in the popularity of e-commerce is the role played by the government. Nothing much has been done by the government except that it is in The process of giving legal recognition to electronic signatures and payments. The new government’s resolve to create a separate IT Ministry along with the move to draft new policies regulating Internet policies in India are welcome step, for as soon as it happens, it would give a boost to the growth of e-commerce.

NAVNEET ANAND