Netting People

India Internet World’98 was held in New Delhi recently.
Hailed as the largest Internet event in the world, it was for the first time this show was
held in the country, courtesy Mecklermedia in association with Microland.

The event that was held in Pragati Maidan between August
25-28 was jointly organized with Mecklermedia, an international publishing house which
already has expertise in organizing such shows. The company enjoys the credit of
organizing over 30 such events in 25 countries in the last 18 months. Its core competency
in the organizing arena, combined with Microland’s experience in organizing such events in
India, proved to be an ideal mix, and everything went off smoothly.

The event consumed 3,000 sq ft, and saw 40 exhibitors
participating. There were a total of six keynote speeches, an equal number of panel
discussions, and 60 conference sessions under five headings, namely, Intranet/Extranet,
Internet: The New Medium, Business on the Net, Content World and ISP World. The timings
were divided into three slots: special hours, business hours and public hours.

The organization of the event was typical of Microland. The
publicity brochures were neatly thumbed and well colored, and they held, typical to
practice, parallel sessions which made it so difficult to choose between what sessions
should be attended. They got good speakers who spoke well-but again, in quite a few cases,
some of the sessions got a little too company-specific and marketing-oriented as opposed
to being truly informative.

Quite a few speakers spoke to DATAQUEST, and the feelings
were mostly similar-yes, India has a good chance of making it big in the Internet web
place, but for that, connectivity and telecom infrastructure need to be improved. Many
also spoke about the various strategies available for leading from the front on the web,
and expounded their own favorite ones. And then there was the usual talk about their
companies, and how they were involved in developments that were changing things.

By far, the biggest attraction of the show was Sabeer Bhatia
of Hotmail fame. Hotmail, while probably not the best example of an ideal web mail
solution, has two very enviable badges-it was the first, the pioneer that everybody else
follows, and it was the one selected by Bill Gates to come under the Microsoft banner.
Sabeer Bhatia was so much in demand-there were supposedly over 35 requests for one-to-one
media meetings with him-that he could only spare a small 20-minute slot for a mini-press
conference. He spoke of the openness of things in the US, and how the environment there is
highly conducive to bringing out the entrepreneur in him.

Again, like most other people, he opined that the Government
of India should ideally leave the Internet alone, because the worst thing that could
happen to the web was over- regulation. He also discussed Hotmail’s own future strategies
and said that they were now looking at targeting business users. He also claimed that at
Microsoft, he had the freedom of running things his own way, though admitting that he
misses the entrepreneurial spirit. Bhatia also said that there were no revenue plans for
the next two years, and also that one of the key strategies would be customized,
personalized content.

Among the other speakers, the prominent ones included Bill
Melton of Cybercash, Gene DeRose of Jupiter Communications, Chris Moore of iPass and
Mellanie Hills of Knowledgies. Between them, they kept the knowledge waves running at high
bandwidth, and spent their time either talking to journalists or briefing visitors to
various sessions.

Among Indian speakers, the cake goes to Chandrababu Naidu,
the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, who has taken so much trouble to understand what IT
can do, in terms of foreign investments as well as in terms of being a key enabler, both
from the perspective of his own state as well as from the national context. In fact, it
was Naidu who gave the inaugural address at the glitzy event. He said, "IT enabling
the Government will free it from many evils like corruption, incompetencies, indifferences
etc. This will make the Government more transparent and accessible to the common
man."

Naidu, incidentally, was not the only prominent political
figure who attended IIW’98. Former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao also came, but he was
not among those who spoke, instead contenting himself with visiting various stalls.

Microland being a company that believes in business and
pleasure going together, presentation of India Internet Awards was hardly a surprise.
Again, considering that it was an Internet fair, it was hardly surprising that
Internet-based communication was much in vogue, with the panel of judges too meeting
virtually, over the web, through email. They gave away five different awards under various
categories, namely the `Most Useful Website of the Year’, `Most Popular Website of the
Year’, `Best Website Design’, `Best Web Designer’, and `Cyber Corporate of the Year’.
Rediff on the Net <www.rediff.com> was the most popular site-walking away with two
awards. One for being the `Most Popular Website’ and second, for `Best Website design’.
Homeindia.com got the `Most Useful Website’ award, while the National Stock Exchange and
ICICI jointly walked away with the Cyber Corporate of the Year award. The `Best Website
Designer’ award went to Malay Nagda. The Awards ceremony was organized by Microland along
with The Economic Times and Computer Associates.

All in all, it was an excellently planned show,
professionally organized, and well attended. True, much more needs to be done to make the
Internet itself prevalent in India, but this show is definitely a good step in the right
direction.

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