The Online Bazaar

Stefana Broadbent, a cognitive scientist who has closely observed and analysed people’s use of technology, argues in her talk at Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) 2009, that the World Wide Web has transformed relationships and closeness between people – a concept she calls web intimacy. Whether it is social networking or instant messaging, digital age tools have broken down long distance barriers to help people stay connected. Her point is, despite the fact that people are not face-to-face, the Internet enables more frequent conversations, thus, helping people remain closer to each other.

This concept is definitely debatable. But, I am sure all of us unanimously agree on one thing – the Internet has redefined everything – be it reading habits,communication, business, or commerce. From work processes and social communication to traveling and accessing entertainment, the Internet has touched almost every aspect of our lives. And, our cover story in this edition of The Smart CEO focuses on one such aspect – shopping on the Internet. This is one area which has not seen much of a penetration since the Internet boom in India. Reasons could be many; including the psyche of a typical Indian consumer to touch and feel a product before purchasing it, or security on the Internet, or simply spending time in malls. That said, the Internet presents a different set of advantages for businesses and consumers alike and our story aims to understand these.

In this story, we analyse the ability of the e-commerce sector to become a part of India’s consumption story, the challenges that e-commerce entrepreneurs face and a 360-degree perspective of what works and what does not in online retail. e-Commerce experts including Sramana Mitra (Silicon Valley-based technology entrepreneur and strategy consultant) and Subrata Mitra (Partner at venture capital firm Accel India),  have shared their insights on this industry. Several early stage e-commerce entrepreneurs, across sub-sectors in online shopping, have thrown light on what it takes to make things work in this business. We also feature some of these ventures including 99Lables, the online fashion retailer, CaratLane, the online diamond store and SaffronArt, the online art auction portal.

In our Starting Up section, we have brought to you the story of two interesting companies. Dhama Innovations, founded by MIT graduate Kranthi Vistakula, focuses on building innovation driven products for the common man. Till date, they have built nine products including a climate controllable jacket, a knee pack with a temperature control between 4 and 44 degrees, and even an insole to make shoes more comfortable. Vistakula combines scientific thinking with a strong business sense – a combination that is key to make an innovation-driven venture succeed. The other startup, MapMyIndia.com, was founded by husband-wife duo Rakesh and Rashmi Verma in 1992. While they started off with a grand agenda of mapping India and serve as a geographical information service provider, over the last four years, they have expanded to include in-car navigational devices and tracking systems for delivery vehicles. India is not an easy country to map, and MapMyIndia’s edge lies in the fact that their data collection has been very accurate.

If you are an active blogger and have nurtured hopes of becoming an author, Divya M. Chandramouli’s special feature on ‘bloggers turning authors’ could serve as inspiration to take that giant leap! Sidin Vadukut, Parul Sharma and Arnab Ray; all accomplished bloggers spoke to her about how they made the successful transition.

As always, we had a wonderful time putting this edition together. We hope you enjoy reading this edition of The Smart CEO.