The afternoon session of Digital Summit 2006 began with a stimulating expert guest session on ‘Unleashing the retail power of the web’ by Captain G R Gopinath, MD, Air Deccan. Gopinath shared Air Deccan’s legendary success and how its online sales and marketing channel increased customer loyalty and made air travel a reality for all Indians. Deccan that started with one flight two-and-a-half years ago, and today has 28 flights. Gopinath stressed that it was important to understand that travel was fundamental to the economy as well as individuals.
Session Three of the day saw a discussion on the state of the online market in India, which was expected to increase to Rs 1,180 crore in 2005-06. Speakers in this session included Deep Kalra, Founder and CEO, Makemytrip.com; Murugavel Janakiraman, Founder CEO, Bharatmatrimony.com Pvt Ltd; K Vaitheeswaran, COO, Fabmall.com; Sharad, Head of E-commerce, Times Internet; and Anupama Salvi, COO, Avenues.com.
According to Kalra, e-travel under e-commerce was thriving, while e-shopping and online broking would be future growth drivers. Vaitheeswaran said that people today were less reluctant to buy online and realized that the risk of using a credit card to pay online was as risky as while shopping physically. He added that well known Indian brands had moved away from information based websites to interactive websites after realising the potential of e-shopping.
Session Four dealt with how to ‘Leverage sales to drive retail sales’, which had Krishna Prasad, Head of Programming, MSN India, as the speaker. This session discussed the measures that entrepreneurs needed to adopt to understand searching patterns and shopping patterns of online users. According to Prasad, India had no robust network and no portal provided holistic information. He also stressed on the importance of concentrating on regional language based content.
Session Five discussed the ‘Challenges facing e-commerce in India’ with Amitabh Pandey, Group General Manager (IT services), IRCTC, as the moderator. The session examined alternative online payment options, tax framework that was e-commerce friendly and preventive methods and post-order procedures that merchants could practice to minimise credit card fraud. According to Pandey, though IRCTC started with payment through credit cards, it had now moved to direct debit and pre-paid cash cards as alternative payment options.
Ravi Ramu, CFO, Times Internet Ltd, said that e-commerce taxation could be quite confusing and that the government needed to remove barriers such as excise and service tax. The need of the hour was having a governing body that was a common platform for e-commerce in India.
Satish Menon, Head-Mobile and Wireless, Citibank, said that e-commerce had grown phenomenally last year because conventional businesses such as airlines and railways entered the domain armed with compelling business models. He added that other businesses could encourage online payment by making sure that payments were authentic and done through secure means.
Shantanu Sirohi, Head-Strategy and Planning, Mediaturf, said that some of the most famous names in e-commerce worldwide such as Dell, Levis, and Apple had not started operations in India. The reasons that companies had not really adopted e-commerce was because they were looking for perfect payment solutions and feared moving from retailers and wholesalers to an e-commerce model that was still untapped.