The E-Com That Saved Us Money

It’s over a year since E became the most abused letter in the alphabet. But
the E our industry really loses sleep over is the enterprise. Especially when it’s
cash-strapped and cuts spending on IT.

But despite the funds squeeze in 2001, enterprises had a good year with
infotech. Those who used it well. Much of the benefit came from better datacom:
networking, apps, voice systems.

First, connectivity. This was the first year enterprises really saw
stabilized, private ISP alternatives to VSNL and DoT. I remember when, up to
1999, our leased and ISDN lines would simply drop dead and we’d have people
rushing around looking for linesmen to bribe. Now, whatever the bandwidth
complaints we have with our private ISP, we don’t have downtime. And hey,
there’s competition. Even VSNL has tried to improve, though not very hard.

Even in backward Gurgaon, we can choose from a variety of leased and dial-up
lines, radio links, VSAT broadband, C-band async data. We still can’t reliably
make ordinary phone calls (forget about using 1-600 or special services), but
private cellular and now even basic telephony operators give us a choice. And
data’s been filling the gap rather well.

For four years we’ve had desktop Internet access for all employees across
our publication group’s country-wide offices, but 2001 was when it became
consistent, dependable, and usable for applications and workflow. For a mid-size
enterprise, that’s a great thing.

The first big app to leverage all this connectivity (after email, which we’ve
used for six years) was IM–instant messaging. Now, meetings, on-the-fly
discussions, even performance appraisals, happen over IM. Our long-distance
phone bills have dropped sharply. Cellphones are used heavily for messaging,
with Web, mail and IM integration.

Then, of course, came specific apps, such as customer apps and payment
gateways, which were transformed by all the connectivity.

Next stop is VoIP. With the path clearer for voice and data convergence, our
first use of this will probably be voice over IM, for quick and cheap on-the-fly

Okay, we’re ahead of the average SME as far as this E-com–enterprise
comms–goes. But this is a sampler of what others can do. And of where the
industry can make money today. There’s crores to be made just from deploying
messaging systems…

So why would we spend crores in a slowdown? Because an online app like IM can
very tangibly save us lots of money. That’s a clincher, in these times.
Recover the investment in a month…

Connectivity will bring up many such opportunities for those who look for
them: both enterprises, and the industry. And those who grab them now will
profit the most when the slowdown eases off–a few months from now.

Prasanto Kumar Roy

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