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India Lags Behind in E-Business

India lags behind in e-business use, according to an IDC estimate.

E-commerce in India is to touch $ 160 million by 2001 from $ 2.8 million in 1997. IDC says in India, most of the transactions are business-to-consumer rather than business-to-business.

India's 150,000 Internet subscribers are estimated to rise to 1.15 million by 2001 in the best case scenario or to 900,000 by most standards.

Contrary to general impression, e-business is not just e-commerce.

"It is Information Technology (IT) plus the Web," said M. Ganesh, general manager, strategic marketing and operations, Tata-IBM, the joint venture between IBM and Indian firm Tata.

E-business in its simplest form would be an e-mail. At the very complex it would be one particular model of Lexus enabling a locked-out driver to punch in a code on any telephone and have the satellite unlock the car for him! Even better, automatically notify the ambulance service and police in case of an accident.

In India, e-business faces some tough road blocks. The challenges are legal, commercial and structural. Credit card transactions on the Net are not allowed, there are foreign exchange restrictions, and electronic signature is not accepted.

"Plus, from structural point of view, it is expensive for an individual Indian to start shopping on the Net," points out Mukesh Aghi, president, Tata-IBM.

With work towards tackling these issues, traffic on the Net is expected to rise in the future.

Today, a large proportion of the external communication for Tata-IBM is being done under e-business, says D. V. Jagadish, deputy general manager, emerging business, Tata-IBM.

The campaigns that the company runs for just about anything -- RS 6000, ThinkPads, Desktops, NetFinity servers, Lotus Domino -- have all been put under the e-business umbrella.

Under this umbrella, IBM offers an array of e-commerce products and solutions, intranet/extranet products and solutions, web enabled products/solutions, connectors, security products, system management products, commerce solutions.

The early campaigns were mainly educational. Now IBM has started running testimonials from companies like ABB and Domino Pizza, for whom IBM set up intranets.

For ABB, Tata-IBM has set up a countrywide intranet connecting 12 locations using 26 PC servers and Lotus Domino.

Tata-IBM is the technology partner for Rediff-on-the-Net's electronic mall. IBM Net.Commerce solution has been used to set up the interactive web site.

The company is also in the process of setting up a gateway to enable credit card payments over the Net for Equifax Venture Infotech.