An Ecommerce Evangelist

fp.jpg (5881 bytes)FICCI’s
Executive Director for Business Information Services Network, MAJ Jeyaseelan, would not
have many a counterpart, today. For, he has matured with the gradual absorption of
technology by the third world countries. He was opportuned to travel extensively as a
consultant of UNDP in G-77 countries to study their information network technology. After
coming back, he put everything together in building an application <bisnetindia.com>
for FICCI. Jeyaseelan shares his experiences in an interview with Sarat Chandra Das.
Excerpts:

When did FICCI wake up to the IT
reality?

It happened in 1983 after I came back from a workshop in Bangkok, where I, for
the first time, had my hands-on experience with an IBM-compatible machine. Till that time,
Chamber’s strenuous job of data handling was done by manual methods. After that the
purchase of DCM Galaxy 21 based on proprietary system were to replace all that. That time
we were doing more programming and less work. In 1984, we brought in an IBM-compatible,
with two floppy drives and packaged software, so as to spend less time on programming.
Since then we have been making considerable progress.

Out of the five business database
services that you have currently, only Energy and Agriculture are on the Internet. Why so?

Well, you have to identify your thrust areas. We felt these are the sectors which
were needed most for technical information. However, very soon we will have two more
sectorial database services-Environment and Health and Pharmaceuticals. Environment
sectorial database would be available from July 1. This would be done in association with
ICICI and US aid jointly.

Some leading industry organizations
function on the basis of industry-to industry communication mechanism. But FICCI still
believes in chamber-to-chamber mechanism. Why?

One of the key features of our database is that the Internet user can directly talk to our
database to get the information quicker. The online transaction enables people to enter
into my database and also make entries into our database. FICCI’s objective is to reduce
the user’s search time to get relevant information, not related information. In my
database system you can search 67,000 companies.

What type of security have you
built up in order to safeguard your database?

Well, one cannot corrupt a compiled record without source code. Further, access
is controlled by web access speed. Moreover, when a user enters information from his part
it comes with a flag. That distinguishes it from our data. Also, we do a random check of 5
percent of these direct entries through our automatically operated email so as to ensure
no one enters wrong data. We have found that the 5 percent random check is quite
effective.

What is the IT investment of FICCI
compared to other means of information dissemination?

It is Rs 1.5 crore. And my running investment is 60 lakh per year. Out of which,
I would have scrapped Rs 40 lakh to cope up with the new technology. The expenditure on
other means of information dissemination is very high. For instance, for storage of
information alone the library and record room is costing us Rs 80 lakh annually.

What is your vision for the site?
By the way, our IT project is dedicated to be self-supportive and it is FICCI’s
foresight to sink so much money and absorbing so much initial losses. In a month’s time, I
am expecting the investment returns would come. In this regard, we are finalizing some of
the new modules on the Net.

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