NET.COLUMNS: 10 InfoTech Trends – Impact on Indian Business

Last week, we examined 10 trends for
consumers in India, brought about by the Net in India. This week, we
take a look at Business and the impact the forces of cheaper and more
powerful computers combined with ubiquituous communications will have.

1. PC as the key device in the workplace

The computer is going to be the most important device in the office
(and on the road for the mobile executive) for communications,
information access and increasingly, transactions. In India, the
installed base is about 1.5 million, which leaves plenty of room for
it to grow. Today, most computers are still primarily used for office
productivity applications and printing out letters. In due course, the
browser-enabled computer will become the front-end to the information
base — within and outside the company.

2. Internet as the global distribution medium

Be it email or a website, the Net is going to be the primary
distribution and communications medium. Available in nearly every
country in the world, the Net offers unmatched advantages:
instantaneous communications, electronic messaging, interactivity and
in due course, multimedia. As bandwidth to the Net increases (in India
the net bandwidth has doubled: more people connect at 28 Kbps than at
14.4 Kbps today, and in the next year, ISDN and 56 Kbps modems will
double it again), a wider range of applications become possible.

3. Business is time and info-sensitive

The Net fills the gap between the delay in getting paper delivered to
us, and the broadcast nature of television. Its interactivity and
immediacy of access allows us to get the information we want without
any delay. As companies put up more information on the web than ever
before, the Internet website is becoming the primary means of getting
information. In the case of the Reserve Bank of India, material
is published on the Net at the same time as it the press releases go
out. Business in India has access to information worldwide at the same
time as their counterparts elsewhere. Just because we are in India
doesn’t mean we are at a disadvantage. This will remove information as
the scarce resource, and make knowledge the tool for competitive

4. Trade barriers being dismantled

As countries move to zero-duty regimes, the marketplace becomes
global. Geography (distance) as a barrier to doing business
vanishes. Virtual Vineyards
sells wines across the world.
Amazon gets 27% of its revenues from
outside the US. For Indian companies, it will be necessary to create
quality products which match the best in the world, and explore
markets through the Internet. The courier company (we need efficient
supply chain management) will deliver anywhere in the world in 72
hours. Unless we do something about it, it will probably take longer
to get goods past our customs.

5. Mass Customisation

We are moving away from mass production. The Net allows us to create
products custom-built to a user’s specifications. This is because the
inputs are provided directly by the user. As intermediaries are
eliminated, it becomes possible to reach out directly to the customers
and take their orders, which are then routed directly to the shop
floor for production. Networking is the key for success in the New
Economy. As a glimpse of what’s going to come, try creating your own
computer at Dell’s website or
ordering groceries at Netgrocer
(you can’t pay for them, but you’ll get the idea of things to come).

6. Wired Consumers

A lot of the drive for businesses to computerise and provide more
information will be driven by an influential base of customers who are
increasingly wired. Customers here could be employees, suppliers or
end-users. Today, the PC-modem-phone combo is all that is needed for
Net access. In India, while 15 cities already have local Net access
now, you will see the top 50 cities have access to the Net in the next
12 months. Also, as the private telcos begin operations, Internet
access will be a commodity. The Net has one Law: More begets
More. With every new connection, the value of your connection
increases. Just like the fax machine.

7. Direct Access to Enterprise Systems

About 60% of NFDC’s ad bookings (for programmes on Doordarshan) now
take place through the Internet. Ad agencies can dial up to the Net,
enter their login and password, and place their request. They now
interact directly with NFDC’s database. They can do queries, check
status, and make the booking — without having to interface to a human
being. Business-to-business commerce is making its beginnings in India.

8. Email as the Killer App

The biggest opportunity in India is to provide email to every
corporate user. It will also lead to better and faster communications.
Witness the number of Indians who have got Hotmail accounts. Personal,
Private Email on the desktop is the killer application in India.

9. Electronic Payment Systems

A mechanism to pay electronically will transform not just the banking
and finance sectors, but also other businesses. Collecting money via a
credit bank or a bank account will transform the way business is
done. It will lead to a major spurt in the use of the credit card,
since now one can go to the Net, hunt for the best deal, and have it
delivered. The impact on business of this efficient market: diminishing

10. Business Velocity Increases

Underlying what we have talked about is an increase in the pace of
doing business. Companies want products and services faster, email
demands replies in minutes and not days. The Internet will be the
second step in India’s liberalisation programme. Business will need to
respond by acting rapidly, deploying the technologies within the
company and between the organisations they deal with. The Net will
need a rethink of business processes. The Networked Economy is here.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.