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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The need for Entrepreneurship Education

Posted by on Sep 4, 2011 in Business, EPM World, Marketing, Branding, Self-employment, Start-up business | 0 comments

In my earliest posting I have cited several contributing factors to become a successful entrepreneur.

While starting a business is one side of a coin the other side is running it successfully duly strengthening the confidence of all stakeholders.  The top three problems faced by start-up entrepreneurs are mostly (a) marketing, (b) management and (c) working capital.  However, majority of entrepreneurs point their failure towards deficient financial resources or short working capital.  The creeping fact indeed would be mostly the failure in marketing.  Poor marketing and sales would create a vicious circle where poor sales results in piling stock in the warehouse, which in turn would make a dent on working capital leading to management confusion.

A good percentage of start-ups are initiated by first generation entrepreneurs who lack the knowledge or experience in the business processes or functional priorities in business.  Many don’t follow the business setup processes like:

  • Opportunity/Idea research: If not done it would result in inappropriate, unviable or bad business selection.  This would lead to obvious failure at the end.
  • Feasibility Study: If not done it could result in incorrect product / service selection for the target market, improper sales projections, wrong or deficient strategies to face competition and more.  The end result would obviously be either product failure or market failure.
  • Detailed Project Report / Business Plan: If not done it will not let you know the sequence of processes, actions required in the end-to-end implementation of project and the planning & strategy required to conduct business operations.  Besides, these documents would be highly essential in securing business loans, availing government support with respect to loans, and subsidies.  DPR and Business Plan are the mirror to the business / project and an entrepreneur should invariably get the same done and imbibe the contents for right implementation.  The documents should never be considered as a record alone if a true and transparent success in the project / business is to be achieved.
  • Project Management: This is related to the setting up of business or executing the project in a structured, disciplined, transparent and an accountable manner.  Project Management is important because if you don’t manage project effectively, you will find yourself at the negative end of the road.  The saying goes very clearly that when you don’t plan, you plan to fail.
  • Marketing Strategy: The sin in business is allowing the produce to remain in the warehouse than pushing it into the market.  How is it possible to market a product without right strategy that could tell you the means, resources, methods, and schedules to market your produce?  Hence, marketing strategy is highly essential for the very viability of business.
  • Financial Management: Financial resources i.e. money is every thing in the business.  Inadequate money or improper financial management will result in several failures.  This is especially difficult where the business procures secured or unsecured business loans which will need servicing of loan on time for peaceful running of business.  Many businesses will again misjudge the spending on CAPEX and Working Capital.  Going beyond the budgetary allocation for procurement of capital goods or high spending with poor negotiation power will result in drain of budgetary resources.  The effect would be a strain on working capital.
  • Induction of human resources and expertise: Team is everything.  Induction of quality team depends on right job description and right recruitment processes.  This plays a pivot role especially in the matter of senior management personnel.  This would always need professional consulting services and business should not go for just known resources or cheap resources to save money.
  • Communication management: This could be resolved through professional management processes and should not be ignored.  Right communication and interactions would create brand identity and corporate identity in the organization pervading transparency across the enterprise.
  • Collaborations & Partnership: Identification of partners who can complement the business abilities and requirements, proper negotiation of terms, clean exit plan and assessment of ROI on partnership are most important aspects which could be done only through right understanding of market.
  • Stakeholder Management, CRM: If the aspirations and expectations of stakeholders are not properly analyzed and right customer support system and Customer Relationship Management is not in place, it would result in customer dis-satisfaction and business erosion.
  • Return on Investment: Business should be directly related to the Return On Investment.  Having cash flow for some reasons may at times make you believe that business is doing well.  Professional assessment of return on investment is an important process and business must know the short-term and long-term returns to be received and investment recovery time lines in order to drive the business in right direction.

Several SSI and SME firms have a bad notion that businesses would not need such a strict rules to follow documentation or detailed processes as above.  That is the very cause of business failure.  Process and process quality is inevitable for business success.  There is no thing called ‘small’ or ‘big’ in the matter of ‘success’ or ‘failure’.  Both would have same bearing and would have same background in all likelihood.

The situation calls for professional education for entrepreneurs before they start their business.  Interested individuals can contact us for Start-up education or start-up services at any stage of their business progress.

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My comments on various topics on HBR Blogs2

Posted by on May 29, 2011 in EPM World, Expressions, Leadership, Marketing, Branding | 0 comments

(1)  ON – Make Your Competition Irrelevant:

Brand preference battles are bad approach in the market.

(I) the reason:

(a) Products are released without much gap between versions just incorporating small and ridiculous additions. Organizations are going impatient to release products with a tag ‘New’ or so just to remain in the competition.

(b) Innovation in real sense should add result oriented and unique feature or function which addresses the concerns of customer. This is not actually happening.

(c) Service after sales is more of a paper based statement than the real delivery. This is making the customers ogle at other brands.

(II) The result of the above:

(a) Rejection of a given brand by the customers after a certain experience

(b) Recall of products by the manufacturer owing to technical snags in the products

(c) Confusion being created in the minds of customers as to whom to trust

(d) So called brand preference battle.

(III) What should be done?

(a) Organizations should devote reasonable gap between versions

(b) Extend original and genuine service after sales

(c) Ensure fault free product delivery

(d) Deliver true innovation than a product

(e) Nurture customer relations.

(2)  ON  – avoiding Catastrophic Failures in Process Improvement

Process re-engineering in its comprehensiveness is similar to dismantling the building from its foundation level and erecting a new structure. Such a big exercise is more relevant to sick companies which are under revival. Established enterprises that are on growth path should (a) identify the areas where performance and transparency are a major concern, (b) understand the priority areas (c) thoroughly educate and enlighten the team about the prospective changes, objectives, responsibilities of team, and post deployment scenarios (d) deploy, monitor and affect minor changes (e) have matured SLAs with the vendor who could support in the achievement of envisaged results.

Most importantly, process change shouldn’t get badly impacted owing to the exit of an executive how much ever he was vital in the re-engineering effort. In such case, it can’t stand to the actual meaning of process or system.

Again the major concern is organizations go for process changes taking the ERP application as a bible. ERP application whether it is from SAP, Microsoft or Oracle needs to be customized according to the process blue print exclusive to the organization. At times the costs of customization, time constraints, expertise, integration issues, inability to take right decision, ignorance and several other factors constrain the organizations to go for off the shelf modules related to their industry sector.

Enterprises need sufficient plan than huge budgets. Right team / small team who understand the business domain, organizational strategy, analyze the related requirements and enlighten the management about the risks vs. benefits, matters a lot for healthy process deployment.

Finally we need right inputs to find right results even after successful implementation of the processes. This is possible if the team attends periodical workshops about the system.

(3)  ON Five Ways to Hold the Right Kind of Attention

The points 2 & 4 are very important indeed. When we pose questions and seek answers from the people, it amounts to entrusting a responsibility while raising their curiosity to get back to us. This obviously maintains the thread of relationship. Frankly, I am yet to learn this. I have a habit of volunteering answers during discussions, which would not leave any reason for people to come back. Thanks for pressing the right button.

It is a very natural inclination in today’s world that people value you and oblige you when your reach is scarce and when it needs long waiting to meet you.

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Enhance individual value to gain personal branding

Posted by on Apr 9, 2011 in EPM World, Leadership, Marketing, Branding, Training | 1 comment

When we refer to a ‘brand’ in the context of a product or service, it reflects the value, the promise, and the contentment it delivers to the consumer.  The requirement of branding is mostly driven by the stiff competition, presence of multiple choices, and the demand of individuals to enjoy a distinctive identity to what they are attached with.  When a product stands for the belief of the consumer he would develop a kind of affinity and remain loyal to the brand.  He would develop an emotional relationship and take pride to own the brand.  Branding is an affair that we develop and maintain with the product or service offered by a particular company.  That is the very reason we would see many of the advertisements by major brands being promoted through the lenses of relationship.  It could be that the content of advertisement speaks the language of relationship or the actors in the advertisement are a family, a couple, a dad and daughter or so.

The world today is enlightened.  We are all matured and decisive about our choices in every aspect and in every walk of our life.  When a product or service in a situation happens to be a person, it is important that the person enjoys the loyalty of the consumer and stands for the brand value.  The person could be a trainer, a consultant, a doctor, a business man, or any other individual.  Even friends no longer like to connect with unless they find in us a growing value.

Thus personal branding gained momentum in the face of growing social networking and enticing business opportunities.  Every one wants to be recognized.  We like to be identified on Page3.  We like to have several connections on Linkedin, several followers on Twitter and several friends on Facebook.  We vie to hog the best identity.  Every one of us wants to connect with the best people around the globe.  It could be social celebrities like Anna Hazare, successful people like Bill Gates, public intellectuals like  Amartya Sen, noted personalities like Oprah Winfrey or any other promising individuals.

Relationship stands for its meaning when it is established and maintained both ways.  The real challenge lies in gaining mutual connections.  Personal branding helps us achieve this.  We can improve a brand identity to ourselves when we are identified with a specific, demanding, and valuable knowledge, trait and significance.  We should evolve to be a product sought after by several consumers.  Value reciprocation is the driving force for creating and maintaining relationship.  So we need to create and maintain a value to ourselves so that we grow with specific identity to ourselves.  We need to grow attractive.  A beautiful bride is everyone’s dream.  We need to become such a sought after bride, who is beautiful, resourceful, manageable and reciprocal in relationships.

If we are able to identify ourselves with all or some of the following, we will invariably improve our personal value and can attract coveted identity in the social milieu.

  • An achievement
  • An expertise in any given discipline
  • Reciprocal attitude
  • Benefit of relation
  • Core personal traits like honesty, trust, and sincerity
  • Social identity

So when we like to connect next with any important figure in the social networking let us check if we hold something attractive enough to reciprocate and what is our brand value.  We may not immediately gain the stature of  Anna Hazare, Medha Patkar, Abdul Kalam, or Anupam Kher, but we can certainly work to be in such vicinity.

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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:

  • https://twitter.com/signup
  • http://www.facebook.com/
  • http://www.linkedin.com/
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Some of my tweets

Posted by on Mar 19, 2011 in Business, EPM World, Expressions, Marketing, Branding | 0 comments

I keep posting my thoughts on Twitter.  All the thoughts and expressions are random and impromptu.  I have posted below some of the tweets from Twitter account EPMWORLD_HYD.

I would be happy to discuss on any of the thoughts,  should someone like me to elaborate further.

Tweets from @EPMWORLD_HYD

The World Sparrow Day - 'Chirp for the sparrow! Tweet for the sparrow!'

  1. An entrepreneur who feels ‘why should I contribute to CSR’  should also remind himself that it is the society, which gives him business.
  2. Business relations will always flourish on the clarity and fulfillment of   business terms.
  3. An entrepreneur should weave his dreams taking stakeholders as threads.  There is nothing beyond stakeholders in business.
  4. Legitimacy, transparency, stakeholder aspirations, and CSR should drive any business.  Not profits alone.
  5. Business entry is a moral commitment to society (which provide us business) that we are going to draw business legitimately.
  6. An entrepreneur once he announces his enterprise is accountable to his stakeholders.  Growth, failure, and exit all matters to them
  7. Many entrepreneurs make a big mistake. Not having proper documentation like Project Plan, methodologies, financial reports, & even profile.
  8. An entrepreneur should begin his morning with serene thoughts.
  9. Self-employed individual should know his / her professional strength without laying hand on everything.
  10. An egocentric start-up owner would gradually loose his stakeholders’ patronage.
  11. Major thrust of any CSR program should be empowerment than constant handhold.
  12. Money is like blood to an enterprise and team is like the nervous system. Thus, a healthy and vibrant team is vital any time.
  13. We don’t board a flight without knowing the destination. Similarly start-ups should know brand direction and destination.
  14. Business plan is cardinal for any start-up.  But more vital is its true implementation.
  15. Keep watching the children playing in their own world. It is also a kind of meditation and yoga.
  16. The promoter and his team should drive the business with confidence. Otherwise they loose the confidence of stakeholders.
  17. We need to inculcate accountability in an employee. May be induction process should evaluate this trait in a more analytical way.
  18. Reading our inner self is important before we read others mind. It informs us what we need to know about others. Again with no prejudice.
  19. We need universities who exclusively develop faculty in all major disciplines, before the matured intellectuals disappear.
  20. Afforestation is important to our sustenance. Similarly planting the seeds of leadership in the younger minds is very important.
  21. Good communication is branding.  Soft tone, tender words and quality talk create better image than a marathon speech.
  22. Branding has a seed at every communication we make with our stakeholders.  Bad seed.  Bad brand.  Good seed.  Good brand.
  23. Money is a very important resource for entrepreneurship. But right team is an indispensable resource without which investment goes waste.
  24. Promoters should maintain consistent momentum to succeed in business.  Some start-up ventures face threat due to weaning interest in promoters.
  25. Small Entrepreneurs and Farmers are two eyes to India.  Surprisingly, they are the most neglected lot in India.
  26. We need engineers, scientists, mathematicians and leaders. Not graduates.
  27. Self-employment or business is like swimming in the ocean. Planning and luck takes you to treasure. Otherwise, to sharks.
  28. Idea incubation can help in regional development.
  29. I don’t see any business, which can’t be evolved into an online model.
  30. Every housewife can attain financial independence through technology exploitation and online business model.
  31. An analysis says – an average Indian in 2020 will be only 29 yrs old. It is high time to instill leadership abilities from high school level.
  32. Gujarat is a shining example. Salute to the true leader Modiji
  33. Many start-ups fail owing to poor marketing.  Produce just lie in the warehouse.  They end up in bleeding finances.  Start-ups need greater planning.
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