It becomes a challenge how you integrate your e-systems with your existing system.”

Anitesh Barua
Associate Professor,
Information Systems, University of Texas

Having an enviable research experience
in e-business and numerous awards to his credit,Dr Anitesh Barua is the right person for
advice on how to create ‘right culture’ for e-commerce. Barua is an Associate
Professor of Information Systems and a Spurgeon Bell Centennial Fellow at the Graduate
School of Business, University of Texas, US. He is also Associate Director of the Center
for Research on E-commerce at the University. In an interview to DATAQUEST, Barua spoke
about the strategies needed for success in e-commerce. Excerpts:

  •  How do you think an enterprise should go about
    setting up an e-commerce venture?

I think you need to look at
the business aspect more than technology. There are a lot of technologies available. But
the real problem is how do you align your business strategy with it? How do you refocus in
tune with your customer? A lot of companies are realizing now that the new customer is not
really the customer they had in the good old days. Compaq, for instance, has always sold
to distributors and resellers. Now, it realizes that in this new world, it has to sell to
the end-user. It has all the technology and know-how to create fancy web sites with fast
cashing systems. But what they are finding difficult is how to refocus their
distribution strategies so that they can reach the end-user.

  • What are the key
    deployment issues regarding e-commerce in India?

I think the biggest issue
is to find your business strategy and how are you going to price your product. For
example, if your are going for auctions, then you need to look at specific sites,
otherwise e-auction may turn out to be a bad choice for you.

Again, if you have a plain
vanilla catalog system, it may not work because it assumes that one size fits all and you
are trying to mass customize your offerings. Once you enumerate your business strategy,
you can then see what are the technologies available.

Then, it becomes a
challenge how you integrate your e-systems with your existing
system. I think that is probably the biggest headache any CIO is going through today.

  • What are the other
    important areas of concern for a country like India?

Well, unlike the US, the
novelty issue is still important in India. How novel is the site—the web site
design—and can you really create that first impression. It is the issue of attracting
attention and building the traffic. The internet sites in the US have already gone through
this and winners have already emerged, but in India it has to be built up. Of course, the
functionality of the site and what you are going to provide is also important.

  •  Do you foresee any major bottlenecks in India? How
    important is the security issue?

Yes, I think in India it
[security] will be a huge issue. There is that ‘fear of the unknown,’ which was
also there in the US for the first couple of years. Also, the legal system has to come up.
I think it is going to be a little difficult in the business-to-consumer arena here
because the direct marketing model is very common in the US. People are realizing that
internet is just an extension, a much more efficient extension. In India, we are not so
familiar with this model of direct ordering, so business-to-consumer will face a lot of
stumbling blocks. I am much more optimistic about businesss-to-business commerce.

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