How to start an Online business

Posted by on Oct 11, 2011 in Business, EPM World, Marketing, Branding, Start-up business, Technology | 7 comments

Online Business:

The digital world has paved way for a new and additional business source in the form of online business.  The traditional marketing budgets which were in the range of millions and billions of dollars are no more a must for someone who would like to attract global business sales.  It could be a largest retailer like Wal-Mart Stores or sheer online shopping mall eBay.  Generous broadband connectivity and Internet proliferation have brought dollar cheers to business men and discount cheers to customers in the online business world.

The significance of online business is its nature to be able to function as the tiniest business model propelled by a single PC to the largest business model driven by gigantic technology infrastructure.  It is as practical as that, an ordinary individual who can invest $100 (INR 5000) of his pocket money can even create blog based online earning revenue model.

(A)  Types of online business:

Online business is prominently dominated by product sale.  Consumer electronics, household provisions, ready made garments, drug store and the list is unending and is limited to our imagination.  The other business type is service sale.  The most popular among them are job portals, matrimonial sites, service exchanges and even research services.

(B)  Online business idea:

epmworld online businessChoose a single product which has large scope in the market and which can be sourced by you at required parameters.  You can go for marketing of all cereals like Green Gram, Black Gram and so.  You can choose art items if you are an artist.  You can go for designer garments if you are a designer.  You can sell photo frames if you are an artisan.  Or you can market handyman services.

Every business opportunity is portable as online business model, provided you know the target market scope.

(C)  Approach:

Idea consolidation:  Finalize the product choice after proper market research.  Make a quality business plan to understand the investment and ROI.

Technology: The major points of consideration could be:

  1. High level requirements of portal
  2. Operating System & Database
  3. Hosting platform
  4. Design considerations for Front-end feel and look
  5. Analytics and Reporting structure
  6. Payment Gateway options
  7. Support
  8. Security measures; and
  9. Development and deployment time.

(D)  Process development and deployment:

What constitutes this?

  1. Finalization of terms with vendors, affiliates for product supply or service deliver.
  2. Statutory and mandatory rules & regulations related to sale and purchase of products contextual to target markets.
  3. Procurement and supply logistics.
  4. Transaction cycle like Ordering, invoicing and delivery.
  5. Operational structure.
  6. Performance monitoring and controlling procedures; and
  7. Customer Data & Privacy Protection Controls.

(E)  Marketing and promotion of portal: 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media tools are the cheapest measures to market any online businesses.  You should engage a professional organization or designate an internal two member team who will promote your portal on continuing basis.  You could check this link on ways and means of online promotion.

epmworld online business portal

(F)  Consistent improvement through market intelligence: 

The success of online presence majorly depends on the factors like (i) Ability to introduce trendy and quality things (ii) Accountability on extended services (iii) Tech intelligence to identify the constraints faced by users during their engagement with your portal.

(G)  Common mistakes:

Several online business portals go bankrupt or wound-up in the early stages owing to poor planning, unfounded projections or technological challenges.  The mistakes to be avoided among other things would be (i) Keeping the site static in terms of design, look and user experience components (ii) Faulty design or insufficient features causing navigational confusion and frustration (iii) Poor performance like slow loading of site (iv) Inadequate or slow support (v) Limited payment options; and of-course (vi) non-competitive in price, product, offers or variety.

(H)  Success metrics:

When you ensure rectification of failure points as indicated above you would obviously find success in your way.  Still the major points or metrics of online business portal success would be (i) Efficient technology (ii) Presentation of clutter free and just in time and contextually required feature(s) (iii) Price and product attraction; and (iv) Real-time support.

Online business portals offer the advantage of business numbers which means a huge market, though with small margins.  From backyard products, house made items to far off place products every item could be traded online.  The secret is creating a brand of your own and maintaining it on consistent basis.  A small mistake or ignorance could distract the long-time customer.  You may tread slow initially but once the portal becomes attractive you would transact just dollars not the merchandise.

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Why you need a Website or Internet Blog?

Posted by on Sep 14, 2011 in Business, EPM World, Start-up business, Technology | 2 comments

The answer for ‘why you need a website?’ is though subjective, I can answer it in one word ‘indispensable’.  Online identity i.e. having a company’s website and / or blog are very important business need(s) for a small business establishment to a large enterprise.  This has been rightly recognized by the business houses and is quite evident from millions of websites present today.

However, small business owners are not able to rightly exploit the investment made on the website owing to (a) bad content, (b) duplicate content (c) bad design of website, (d) improper presentation of company’s service offerings or expertise, (e) poor hosting services and (f) nil maintenance.  What is the result of such online identity?  Bad representation and misrepresentation the company.

I would like to discuss here the important considerations to develop a website which can make your investment worthy.

The quality of web content is the most important thing:
Yes, you should ensure that you have right content for your website that would aptly represent the services you offer, the expertise you hold, the service delivery model you have in place.  Remember your content should not be a borrowed content from any other Internet source.  Such an approach would only make your presence redundant and you would not be faring well in search results.  Moreover, it would be a copyright violation.

Website designing is all about your understanding of the user habits of navigation than rich graphics:
Most of the low priced website development companies develop your website using the free website templates from Internet source.  Instead, you should ask them to develop a custom design for your company keeping in mind (a) the business sector you belong to (b) the service items you want to present online (c) the features you like to provide through your website i.e. for example you may like to have ‘real-time chat application’ for online support to your customers or to attract and deal with online sales calls, or video streaming of your Company’s profile, projects, achievements, employee statement about their experience with the Company or feedback of clients.

epmworld websites

All such or any further features of your website should be properly designed with dynamic and scalable architecture considering the user friendly navigation, security, clarity and lastly an experience to the visitor of your website.

Online identity is like a perpetual racing competition:
Another important aspect that one should take note of before creating online identity through a Website, Internet Blog or / and Social Media profile(s) is introduction of your website or blog to your existing customers, prospective clients and to all relevant stakeholders.  Website should never be considered as one time job.  It should undergo frequent update of company developments, client acquisition, induction of new management members, if any, and more.

How do you announce your website to your customers and other stakeholders?
An important question, indeed.  My suggestion in the context would be:

  1. Send email communication to all your present and prospective client(s) with the link of your website
  2. Create an official blog as a sub-domain or as a folder to your company’s domain.  Make the blog content rich with information about your product, your team’s expertise, service and support issues, market trends, technology trends, stakeholder achievements and more.  Share this link with all concerned on regular basis through email subscription or RSS feed.
  3. Create social media profile with links to your website and blog.  Actively involve with your stakeholders reaching them with the data concerned to them.
  4. Ensure your website and blog addresses are printed on all the company’s stationery, marketing collateral, and announce your website in all the marketing announcements in conferences, presentations and campus interviews.
  5. Encourage your employees to participate in your blog and invite participation of their contacts wherever the product and your content would be relevant to the participants.
  6. Release small advertisements just with your website and blog addresses and telephone numbers on regular basis.  This would not cost much and at the same time would educate people about your services.  The advertisement so decided can be a simple content like: “Visit us for your business consulting services.”
  7. Use moving media extensively to announce your website.  It could be a collaborative advertisement where you will share the ad space of other advertiser like movie advertisement.

There could be many more approaches.  However, you should consistently ensure that your website and blog are (a) available on 24x7x365 basis (b) no broken or dead links (c) you respond to each and every query from a website or blog visitor (d) you will honour whatever you propose through these channels.  Most important again is the fact that your company’s team who respond to the enquiries of website must have thorough knowledge and coordination control on required actions.

I will highlight on the promotion through SEO again.  Meanwhile you may also visit our other blog on social media.

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Online business development tools

Posted by on Mar 20, 2011 in Business, EPM World, Marketing, Branding, Start-up business, Technology | 1 comment

I attempt here to indicate most important Internet based FREE business development tools and the basic advantages they offer in your business promotion.

Technology has added tremendous value to businesses all over.  There is no count as to how many software applications, technology tools are part of today’s business.  The most prominent among them are Engineering applications, multimedia tools, ERP suit, analytical tools, project management applications, and many.

The advent of world wide web has brought unthinkable and indescribable value to the business where every business card today invariably bears its identity on Web / Internet.  Internet is a virtual office for many businesses.  From the basic website, and email transactions to today’s cloud computing
infrastructure, Internet is the media and the very breath for us today.  Social Networking Platform came into being as an indispensable business driver, easy marketing tool and as a low budget business development mechanism.

Everyone is spending some of his / her day’s time on Internet engaged with Social Networking tools like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Orkut, Linkedin, Flickr and many.  I have detailed here the business advantages of tools, Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.  Will cover about other tools like YouTube and more through separate posting.

Twitter: Twitter is a micro blogging platform.  My favorite tool.  We can create a Twitter account in just 1 minute.  Twitter helps us to communicate anything regarding our business.  The business advantages:

  1. Provide a brief bio about you or your business
  2. Link to your website or blog
  3. Compile a list of followers based on our business profile, general requirement or personal choice
  4. Update your followers on your new product (s), technology, service and developments
  5. Share important documents like Survey Reports, White Papers, Case studies, Web links
  6. Promote your blog, website and your profile
  7. Create, develop and maintain your business brand, personal brand
  8. Attract Sr. Management personnel to join your business
  9. Share business expansion details
  10. Inform followers about Seminars, Meetings, Conferences, Exhibitions
  11. Seek project funding
  12. Explore partnerships and collaborations
  13. Comment or remark on favorite issues or current events
  14. Conduct virtual meetings through tweets
  15. Discuss on important topics
  16. Share any other information with your  followers.

Facebook: Facebook is a very prominent social networking platform meant for personal, professional and business advantages.  Creation of account is very easy.  You can have your business and personal profile as one account.  The business advantages:

  1. Invite your friends, customers, and business associates to join you
  2. Showcase your company’s profile
  3. Place your personal profile
  4. Provide links to your websites or blogs
  5. Communicate any business information you like to share
  6. Market your product, service, conference and seminar
  7. Share your business achievements
  8. Discuss important topics, conduct virtual brainstorming sessions
  9. Share any other information you may like

LinkedIn: Professional network development tool.  Highly favored by enterprises, professionals and individuals.   The business advantages:

  1. Very good platform to place your professional profile
  2. Right tool for professional networking
  3. Add people to your network based on your interest and requirement
  4. Find your favorite companies/organizations and follow them for regular updates
  5. Share your views, thoughts and opinions on various aspects
  6. Promote your blog, website, event and your profile

All the businesses whether small business, or large enterprise should have a disciplined Social Media Management Strategy to derive the benefits they offer.  An enterprise which invests an year of sincere, disciplined and professional approach will benefit in terms of:

  1. Online brand development
  2. Online and offline business development through lead generation
  3. Wider professional identity
  4. Network expansion
  5. Ability to attract potential team members
  6. Real-time insight about on business happenings

As a matter of fact, the advantages of Social Networking for Business and Social Media Management Strategy are merely limited to the imagination, wisdom and consistency in the pursuit.

You can create your business identity using the following links:

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The big business to exploit

Posted by on Jan 9, 2011 in EPM World, Self-employment, Technology | 0 comments

I have come across several investors who were keen to expand to new business avenues.  I have considerable experience in Information Technology and have closely studied the business opportunities that technology offers and suggested certain things to such investors.  The one common response for this had been apprehensions to invest in IT sector.  The situation especially in India was caused by failed ventures initiated on unviable concepts backed by insufficient technology expertise or management processes.  Some ventures came up with a product development like ERP application, banking application, telecom application, e-Governance applications.  I know organisations who have spent more than 3 years in the product development  maintaining extensive infrastructure to find at last that the product had incompatible or weak architecture, the product had several functional snags, and core team members who were associated with product development were no more working with the organization.  Besides, the organisation had drained its working capital to take care of employee cost, marketing and more.

The fundamental requirement to evaluate any business opportunity for its technical, commercial and market viabilities were not considered in serious sense in most of the projects.  The investments were made with superficial understanding of IT business, market sentiments, and at times attracted to posh IT glamour.

The present situation in India is highly promising to venture in to IT investments.  However, there is no need to reinvent things and go for new enterprise applications.  The actual business in technology vests in finding ways and means to reach technology to the nook and corner of the country.  Customized technology devices, service facilitation, conversion of several offline opportunities to online business models, content management, technology integration in the existing businesses, technology literacy and many more related to this and beyond these areas are definite business opportunities in technology.

The success of any project lies in the approach i.e. a right road map from the conceptual stage to commissioning phase.  It could be evaluating project feasibility, going for well judged business plan and critically outlining the implementation processes.  Technology business is no different from any other investment opportunity except that the raw material for this is mostly human brains.  Thus, it is imperative to identify right human resources for any tech project while applying stringent project management measures.

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Domain Name Registration Facts and Shocks

Posted by on Jul 25, 2010 in EPM World, Technology | 0 comments

Today business is achieved more through online. We may be selling farm equipment, software, domains, pizza, or movie tickets. We achieve global and local business through Internet traffic. The most important backbone for online marketing is domain. A domain name which is named after a top ranked keyword or combination of such keywords. The domain names can be one word, two words or even three word name. The most essential metric is to choose keyword which would reflect our proposed business. When we name our domain we also need to consider the domain search parameters. That is if the domain name is coined with two or three words, it helps to research the consolidated traffic and the traffic generated by each keyword individually.

Many organizations go for domain registration without considering any of the above factors. For them a web domain is just a name to host their company data or company information. Also mostly the domain name registration is done by the web hosting or website designing company. Thus, the business owner would hardly exercise his discretion in identifying right domain name. Another factor involved in the context is unawareness of business owner about the various optional TLDs available in the domain name registration and domain register. They buy domain at times without considering the relevance of their business and the TLD. For example, a charity organization may buy domain name with dotcom TLD without realizing that dot Org TLD would be a right option for them. More significantly, the local domain reseller would always don’t suggest such preference. It could be that he is cool about it as he was not approached for suggestions. I find another glaring trend when I check who is domain. Many domain names are registered in the name of the domain reseller or web hosting company. In fact all the contacts whether domain registrant details, technical contact of the domain or administrative contact of the domain. At times the domain name is registered in the name and personal email ID of the network admin in the organization. We can find these deficiencies when we go for domain name search and who is domain database.

Another important observation is that domain registration is done for the minimum duration i.e. one year. The registrant mail ID is that of the domain reseller or network admin. In such a situation, the business owner goes for a shock when he find his website is down upon expiry of the domain period. A big business loss indeed which is difficult to imagine. I know similar thing that happened to one of the renowned News Daily. The domain when they lost was quite aged with more than 175 back links, Page rank 9 and Alexa rank in the range of three thousand. Business owners loose such eminent domain names owing to lack of education about online marketing and Internet presence. At times such domain names are registered by a shrewd individual who offers the domain for sale if the owner wants the domain name back. Going for dispute would only prove major time and money loss if the new registrant happens to be a common man who hardly could bear even the travel cost to attend domain Attorney.

When all the important keyword domain names are exhausted, what should a business owner do?

Let us look at the most famous Internet based businesses today. Hotmail, Yahoo, Google, Youtube, eBay and many more. These businesses wont carry a prominent or eminent keyword based domain name. Still they are the top rankers from every aspect of Internet popularity metric. What is essential in the present scenario is find a domain name which is close to your business type, business name, and things you buy or sell. Prefer dotcom. If not go for your country TLD. Then how will you achieve popularity and how will you get business traffic to your website. Go for SEO. You need a strong SEO vendor who understand your business well and who can research your online competitors thoroughly. You should start with very good content which contains your business keywords and the major keywords used by your competitor. It is not that you should make your website content just a keyword jungle. You should use appropriate keywords reasonably highlighting the business or contextual relevance in the content. After all, the content is not to invite traffic to your website. The purpose of website content is to present the business services that you offer and the mode and model that you approach. The content thus should be enlightening to the visitor meeting his query requirement as well business requirement. The following domains comes with keyword and business concept based domain name. Please choose the one that suits your business. Good luck

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ERP as a Business Opportunity

Posted by on Apr 2, 2010 in EPM World, Technology | 0 comments

On the other day, I was invited by Entrepreneur Development Cell of Osmania University to address a session on “ERP as a business opportunity” to the participants of Entrepreneur Development Programme.

Mostly, I take pleasure in addressing such sessions. I consider it as an excellent platform to share my experience so that some one may benefit in the process.

Notwithstanding the other traits and requirements that a prospective entrepreneur should possess, I would like to highlight here some important factors that pave way to take up ERP as a business opportunity.

(1) The first requirements from an entrepreneur:

  • He should have appreciable experience in the ERP line (SAP / Oracle Apps. /Microsoft Dynamics or any other ERP flavor).
  • Otherwise, he should partner with an individual who has similar expertise
  • Lastly, he should be starting the enterprise with sound financial background so that he could endure the hassles of technical management, business management and sustenance till he achieve encouraging results.

(2) ERP in itself is a multifarious business opportunity. A single organisation generally can’t provide the entire service range in ERP technology. The opportunities that exist in ERP could be classified as:

  • Software reseller in ERP like SAP Value Added Reseller (VAR)
  • Implementation of ERP
  • Support and maintenance of ERP
  • Development of ERP
  • Consulting in ERP
  • Training & Education in ERP

You, as a first time entrepreneur, could choose any single or combinational opportunities from the above. For example Consulting and Training & Education in ERP is a complementing business opportunity. Similarly, VAR & Implementation could be clubbed as one business objective. Development is entirely a different discussion. Otherwise, you could be an exclusive ERP support provider.

(3) The other important decision should be determining the focused industry / business sector for which you will be providing the ERP services. Your or your team’s technical expertise and experience should determine the focus sector. You may serve several sectors too, depending on your and your team’s expertise. It is not right to propose services for various or all sectors based on borrowed expertise. A true expertise in SAP like ERP is not readily available.

(4) The next important thing should be deciding on the costing of services. As a first time entrepreneur or as a new entrant in ERP services, you should be able to compete with other existing players in terms of expertise, cost benefits, service quality, and so. Every metric related to this will reflect on the end-user price that you extend. You should be able to give reduced TCO to the client.

So among other things, you should consider the following elements while you decide on the costing of your services. These elements are neither exclusive nor conclusive. The actual costing could be decided once we have the clarity of service range, sectorial focus, expertise availability, geographical issue and other factors.

  • Cost of marketing and lead closing efforts
  • Cost of change management efforts (business process analysis, determination and deployment, transition of data, integration of data, interoperability factors with the existing legacy applications)
  • Cost of software licenses
  • Cost of infrastructure (if it is turnkey solution where you need to upgrade the IT infrastructure of the organisation to match the ERP deployment requirement)
  • Cost of implementation (resources, customization, going live)
  • Cost of support
  • Cost of end-user training
  • Cost of AMC (if not included in the software license cost)
  • Resource mobilization cost (logistics, diversion of resources, borrowing SME expertise …..)
  • Management cost
  • Cost of Risk management and mitigation
  • Cost of capital (initial budget allocation, payment terms, currency fluctuations in case of foreign client …. will influence the cost of capital)
  • Other overheads and incidentals

(5) Marketing strategy. The prospective customer database, customer geography, market competition, service delivery gaps in the existing market, the cost effectiveness that you could provide would be some considerations to design an effective marketing strategy. The strategy should be short-term and long-term while combining the brand positioning effort. This should also address developing professional marketing collateral. Based on the functional hierarchy there could be a separate Brand Management team or one brand development expert associated in the marketing strategy.

(6) Delivery strategy. It is essential to stratatize service delivery. Whatever technical strengths, cost effectiveness and customer relations that you extend, if you don’t deliver the committed service to the client, the entire efforts and goodwill go in vain. Delivery strategy is to be designed with the help of technical, financial, sales and operational team. The comprehensiveness of delivery strategy depends on the service scope and corporate hierarchy that an organisation has in place. The single objective of delivery strategy is to extend the committed services to the customer.

(7) Process excellence in the organisation. It is essential that you follow functional and operational process excellence in the entire organisation. This will automatically pave way for effective monitoring, better control, transparency and accountability leading to corporate excellence. It in turn will create confidence in the stakeholders.

In this direction, you yourself could go for ERP implementation in the organisation while following ISO, Six Sigma, CMM or other any other process maturity provisions. In absence of any of these things, you should at least have clear methodology defined for each organizational function. That is a set of formats, proformas, check lists, report structure and likes for every department.

(8) Project Management team. It is imperative that you designate a special team of two members or more (depending on the size of your organization) who are specialized in project management as per global standards. This team will help in right guidance in planning and managing a given project. This team will be able to help the ERP team in the right direction for effective project delivery. This team will also act as a brand ambassador for the professional service delivery by the organisation. The EPR project manager will be one of the members in the team.

(9) Research & Development. I strongly recommend for every organisation irrespective its size and age to have R&D; function even if it is one member department. This could help the organisation in extending the best practices, process excellence, subject matter expertise, risk mitigation measures, business research, market economi
cs, matured documentation and so. The team should always work in coordination with the other departments concerned. The cardinal objective of this team is to act as a supporting mechanism in delivering ‘service excellence’ to the customer.

I suppose the above are some of the measures to take up ERP as a Business Opportunity.

I will provide more inputs to the desired aspirant. Invite your feedback.

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