STATS & STRATS
E-commerce witnessed its darkest hour yet even as the net went on a rescue mission of its own; Indian insurers get handhelds. And the Nimda worm is on the rampage.
The darkest hour for e-commerce began a day or two before September 11, 2001. It came when a man called Mohammed Atta (alleged to be involved in the terrorist attacks on New York city and Washington) logged on to the site of American Airlines and ordered a ticket for a flight bound to California, from an unidentified location in Boston. This was the first plane to crash into WTC (the north tower).
And the setback came pretty soon. It wasn't the impact on airlines that caused it; it was the possible fall out on e-commerce. Goldman Sachs reduced estimates for all three publicly traded players in the online travel sector-Expedia, Travelocity, and Priceline-following the event.
On the flip side, the event or rather, what followed, proved that only the internet and cockroaches would survive any catastrophe. Much of the $200 million charity collected so far has been spurred by the ease of donating over the net. The Salvation Army, for instance, estimates that $2 million of the $4 million it raised came over the net.
One site whose popularity spread through chat rooms and usenet groups gave tips on how to prevent hjacking. Steve Kirsch, Founder-CEO of Infoseek, and serial entrepreneur, had put up his preventive thesis revolving around the global positioning system (GPS) technology at skirsch.com.
Ever since services dollars became scarce, there seems to be a surge in packaged it solutions development in this part of the world. Targeting the ever-active financial services turf comes a new kid on the block, Wings Trade, developed by a Hyderabad-based accounting software company Wings Infonet.
Yes, a recent survey did throw up the result that financial services applications is the industry segment to watch out for. But then, India has never been short of products in this area, what with offerings like Tally hanging around for more than a decade. ''But most existing products in the market, available in the price range of between Rs 4,000 and Rs 10,000, do only part of the job like say billing or accounting. Ours is a more comprehensive software,'' says Ajay Gandhi, Director, Wings Infonet.
Priced at Rs 22,000 for a single user and Rs 26,000 for a multiple user licence (a lan of five users), wings has multi-lingual capabilities and offers solutions in 12 languages. Wing Trade's key feature, says Gandhi, is that it helps companies obtain valuable secondary sales information and inventory reports from distributors and stockists.
-E. Kumar Sharma
Tales From The Dot Hot
Ashok Khosla's tarahaat.com was the first NGO to go online. BT's T.R. Vivek catches up with the man for the latest update on the great NGO hope.
Q. To catapult villages into the digital era, create jobs, promote sustainable livelihood and transform rural marketing systems: weren't those the objectives of tarahaat.com when it started off?
A. Our objectives remain the same. It would be implausible for us to say that we have, over the past year, done more than to start on them by setting up the systems that will take us there. It will be another two years before we can truly show the kind of progress that would prove our contention.
What happened to tarabazaar.com?
Tarabazaar is still very much on the cards. When we go about it, we expect to do so in partnership with other groups working on similar lines, including Indian groups working to identify craftspersons as well as overseas agencies with marketing capabilities.
How about capital?
Today, it is difficult to attract capital, and doubly so for a dotcom, which we are, even if of a very different kind. We are discussing the possibility of tying up with the state governments. Of course, in the long run tarahaat has to be commercial and will need commercial investment capital.
We are already operating a number of tarakendras in Bhatinda, Punjab, and are looking further. As I mentioned, the idea is to get started with money from whoever is willing to provide funds for limited purposes, and use those funds to set up a viable cluster that can move forward commercially thereafter.
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