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October - November 2004

Business Forum

The Dot Com Highway: A World Of Opportunity Awaits Your Business!

For many businessmen, doing business on the Internet and understanding how their company could benefit from setting up a website requires a quantum leap of imagination. They just cannot get their head round doing business the dot com way since it so different to the traditional business systems that they’ve been used to. Then there are those who have set up a website, with no understanding of the Internet as a business medium, seen little value added to their business and given up. Deciding that the Internet doesn’t work (at least not for them) they’ve walked away from an exciting and lucrative business opportunity.

I have personally questioned numerous clients as to their motives for setting up a website and a not so infrequent reply is "Everyone else has one, so why shouldn’t we?" Probably the worst reason! Setting up a website is analogous to starting a new division of your business and requires carefully formulated and well thought out objectives to ensure that your website integrates with your existing business processes, strategy and marketing and builds sales and profits for your company. Through this article, I hope to introduce the Internet to you as a valuable and profit building business medium and convey five money-making opportunities that it opens up to your business, irrespective of your business’s nature and size.

Many people see the Internet as advertising, but a business website is better understood as opening up a branch office, a place of DOING business. It’s a place where potential customers can drop in and find out about your business, your products and services, your terms and conditions and what other customers have had to say about you, before making a commitment to dealing with you. They can even make purchases at their convenience and if need be leave message for you, for you to retrieve at your convenience (email). The speciality of this branch office is that it is open 24 hours a day, does not have to be manned or administered by staff and that customers can visit it regardless of their geographic location. And what’s the annual rent? About £15 per year to register your website address and a further £75 approximately for hosting your website. And the initial build up of your branch office (your website) costs only between a few hundred and a couple of thousand pounds, depending on size and the number of features it accommodates. Sure you’ll need to remodel it every few months to keep it up to date, but that’s a small price to pay for all the business it will bring. Remember don’t think advertising, think branch office and you’ll begin to grasp the Internet opportunity and its potential for your business!

The second business opportunity that the Internet offers is a world market. A rapidly increasing number of people around the world use the Internet to purchase items that they can’t find locally or which they can get cheaper from a foreign retailer. If you’re fast on your feet and can adapt your marketing strategies you have the opportunity to make a significant number of these people your customers. The Internet provides a small business in Harrow the opportunity to be a global company and compete with the big boys, with relatively little expenditure except time given to learning. On the Internet, geography has ceased to be a barrier to business. A small business market used to be limited to a one hour drive from your premises. No longer. People now frequent a global shopping plaza, the web and let the best website win! A global opportunity awaits you! Of course some products don’t lend themselves to a global market like a restaurant for example. Delivery of Bhel Puri & Chaat beyond a certain geographic boundary simply would not work! However even in this scenario many entrepreneurs have used the Internet to their advantage by overcoming the problem of busy phone lines during peak hours and taking orders over the Internet thus propelling their businesses towards increased sales. Brainstorm & dream!

A third opportunity is direct sales, jumping the distribution chain that hikes up prices to the end consumer. Many online businesses are essentially order taking front offices. Product fulfillment is through manufacturers and distributors who agree to ship directly to the consumer, on the sellers behalf. This way the Internet retailer doesn’t incur costs associated with inventory, stock management and warehousing. Direct retail sales over the Internet is growing exponentially, a great opportunity for your business. By passing complex distribution chains you can undercut the price to the end user and in doing so increase your market share. What an opportunity for your business.

Rahul Katrak is a 24-year-old entrepreneur who runs Futura Internet Services.

The full version of this article is available in the print edition.

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