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The e-com that saved us money

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DQW Bureau
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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.





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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.

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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.

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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 conferences.

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.

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