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Exclusive Interview: eGain Chairman Ashutosh Roy

Last Thursday, Reporter@Large featured eGain Communications (EGAN) as a company worth a look for Internet stock investors.

It appeared to me that there is no reason eGain should be trading at such a substantial discount toKana Communications (KANA). I based the note on eGain's market position, customer and revenue growth, Web based architecture, scalability and its ability to sign up corporate customers for its hosted solution.

Reporter@Large had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Ashutosh Roy, eGain's co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer.

Reporter@Large When talking about eGain, aren't we really talking about a complete Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution, rather than simply email management?

Roy That is correct. We characterize ourselves as an e-commerce customer communications company, and the reason for it is that we believe the management of communications between the customers and a business is the most important piece of the relationship. So we have developed, integrated, and deployed multi-channel communication capabilities for email management, live Web collaboration, outbound email marketing, and for voice over IP.

Reporter@Large Obviously a big business with room to grow when you consider the amounts of money companies are willing to spend to acquire customers, but you're the answer to retaining these customers.

Roy That's exactly right. Our tag line now is "Gain and Sustain." In other words, gain customers and sustain relationships.

Reporter@Large How has your experience with "WhoWhere?" ( a company co-founded by Mr. Roy and sold to Lycos in 1998) helped with building and managing eGain?

Roy We took a lot of things away from WhoWhere. One was that it was important to take fundamentally long-term bets on behalf of your customers if you wanted to come out ahead. So the first thing we did when we started eGain was we did not look at what the market was doing at that time, we looked at where the market would be 3-4 years out. We made three strategic bets, we've stuck with them ever since, and they're now paying off: 1) It was a native Web-based architecture for everything we did. Which means no client-server in our shop at all. Our competitors are just now dumping their client server technologies and moving to the Web, so we are far ahead here, 2) Businesses didn't want a one-point solution, they needed a platform. So we went out with this platform strategy and added applications as we saw the market need for it, and 3) is a bet we made directly related from our WhoWhere experience and it is the notion that every business now is running faster than they can. This means that very few companies have the internal resources to manage and maintain their IT applications. So we saw the hosted delivery of applications as the wave of the future. Because of that initial bet we made on the hosted delivery and then having the option of licensed delivery, today we are the leader for the hosted application network with over 120 of our customers on our hosted network.

Reporter@Large So WhoWhere? has given eGain a lot of its direction.

Roy Yes, and the second learning experience we took from WhoWhere was that we wanted to be in the Infrastructure business. We wanted to be in a situation where we would only be dependent on the overall growth of e-business and e-commerce. Whether it was books, shopping, or movies, we didn't care who won or lost. As long as the e-business and e-commerce opportunities took off, we wanted to benefit