What to expect from e-commerce in 2015

e-commerceMulti-million dollar valuations for e-commerce companies; venture capitalists flocking to invest millions of dollars in these companies. That’s how we could best remember the business of e-commerce in India during 2014. Some highlights: Softbank committed an investment of $10 billion in India and invested in Snapdeal, Housing.com and OLA cabs. Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos visited India and committed an investment of $2 billion. Rival Flipkart.com responded by raising a third round of funding taking the total to $1.9 billion. With that, Flipkart’s market valuation reached $7 billion by the end of the year.

In 2014, e-commerce sales through mobile phones picked up drastically. Flipkart and Snapdeal note an increase in the number of users shopping through their respective apps. At the beginning of 2014, Flipkart got 10 percent of its business from mobile apps and for Snapdeal it was 18 percent. By December 2014, the figures jumped to 55 percent (Flipkart) and 60 percent (Snapdeal).

What to expect: The e-commerce bubble is going to swell to massive proportions once the government permits international companies to sell products online in India.  Look out for the entry of giants like Amazon.com and Alibaba.com. And the e-commerce companies will make massive investments in India. Amazon and Flipkart will invest nearly Rs 2,300 crore. Some major acquisitions and mergers may occur. Since most Indians access the Internet on their mobile phones, expect to see more apps and shopping done through phones.  The introduction of 4G services and cheaper 3G phones will boost mobile internet and shopping through mobile phones.

WhatsApp – the tech with biggest impact on Indians in 2014

WhatAppWhatsApp was the killer app of 2014 and impacted many Indians’ lives. It is now common to see parents discussing homework assignments and school projects on WhatsApp. In the office, colleagues discuss work in their own spaces on WhatsApp. The year also saw more people using apps to book cabs from taxi aggregators. And society became more receptive to the unconventional —   dating apps (Tinder and Zoosk); buying groceries online; checking news on apps before consulting the morning paper. Indeed, technology can change the habits of Indians.

And WhatsApp recorded phenomenal growth, clocking 100 million users in just 4 months! WhatsApp cofounder and CEO Jan Koum said on Monday (Jan 5) that the messaging app has topped 700 million monthly active users.

What to expect: The majority of Internet users in India access the net through mobile phones and not PCs. And the common man has now acknowledged the convenience offered by apps.  Consumers will seek and use information-based apps and apps related to public and government services. For instance, farmers will seek weather forecasts. Commuters and travellers want information on bus, train and airline schedules.  Even information on rickshaw sharing or carpooling will be sought. Travel and hotel reservations will increasingly be done through mobile apps.  As the cost of sensors reduces, these will be incorporated into personal devices and communicate through healthcare apps. The state governments will also launch apps directed at citizens.

Since WhatsApp is now owned by Facebook, expect to see the little green icon appearing on your Facebook page sooner or later.

How will LinkedIn ensure quality post in Influencers section?

Now that LinkedIn has decided to open up its publishing platform, everyone on LinkedIn can be an “influencer”.

But the question is, how will LinkedIn separate quality posts from thought leaders, like say, Richard Branson from those of Joe Simple (LinkedIn member)?

This article answers the question to a certain extent.

One thing that LinkedIn could do is to have a ratings system (just as we have hub points here!) Another way to whet the quality is to see the number of likes, number of shares and of course, the number of connections.

Professional titles and experience in a particular field are also parameters to consider for the ratings system.

Another question that comes to mind: Who really ‘owns’ the article that I post on the LinkedIn Influencer page? What if I am re-posting an article from my own site or blog? And what rights does LinkedIn have to syndicate my article (for a fee) to other publishers?

To really get to the bottom of it, you’d need to understand the intricate differences between PAID, EARNED and OWNED media.

Let’s wait and watch.

Web inventor foretells the next wave

Says Linked Data is becoming important for socially connected communities as it helps people find information about each other. Comments on latest developments at the W3C

Everyone was waiting to hear Sir Tim Berners-Lee on the second day of Lotusphere 2012 at Orlando, Florida. We wondered about the expected announcement on Web standards. And IBM got Sir Berners-Lee to break the news at a keynote at Lotusphere 2012.  He spoke of link data and how it was becoming increasingly important in socially connected communities. Very recently, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which is led by Berners-Lee, made some recommendations in a report  on how standards around social networking could lead to innovation in business.

“We are moving from a Web of documents, which people do not understand, to things like calendars and address cards, which are understandable. When you pack all this together you can get to a person and to their friends, and go through the music they like and find other important things like which town they were born in. You can do all these things using all the data you had access to,” said Berners-Lee.

This concept will allow you to link across and compare data from different applications, added Berners-Lee. So an address book and another application might be able to share some of the fields. Because the data is stored separately from the applications, it will become easier to move data sets from one application to another.
The inventor of the Web also made references to the W3C’s Social Business Community Group. W3C is an international community where member organizations and the public work together to develop Web standards.

In a recently published report the W3C outlines how the Social Business Community Group will evolve social networking standards around customer-driven use cases. This report is the outcome of the Social Business Jam, an online event that occurred last November. The event, which used IBM’s Collaboration Jam platform, explored how standards around social networking, such as those developed by the Federated Social Web XG, could lead to increased innovation throughout the business cycle.
Later in the day, Angel Diaz, VP, Software Standards and the Cloud, IBM offered more details.

“For the Social Standards Business Jam we got thousands of people from across the world to talk about the use cases where the standards need to work together. The output led to the formation of the W3C’s Social Business Community, that was launched this week. It will define use cases for evolving standards; the W3C will take those standards to the different standards bodies to make sure that they work well together. IBM will contribute its use cases,” said Diaz.

Standards like OAuth, OpenSocial, Activity Stream, Open ID and HTML 5 will make it easier for businesses to adopt social applications.
“The thing that I am excited about is the way social business is arising and how people are collaborating through this new power of linked data,” said Berners-Lee.

Adapting iCloud for the enterprise

Here’s how Apple’s iCloud (or something similar) can be used in the business world

Journalists around the world  have been busy reporting about Apple’s iCloud service. This is really a service for consumers to store and access their digital media from a central resource (Apple’s data center in North Carolina), using any Apple device (iPad, iPhone, iMac etc). But how can an iCloud-like service be useful to business users? Manufacturers of business smart phones may want to consider some of the issues raised in this article.

Personally, I find it a challenge to synchronize my appointments, meeting schedules and documents between my handset, Outlook mail and my analogous diary. It is a daily juggling act.

Wish-list item #1: To access my tethered desktop from anywhere. By “anywhere” I mean, from a business center in Indonesia or New Delhi, from my home, or while commuting.  And everything on my desktop should be synchronized in real-time with a central resource, so that I always have access to updated versions of my documents.

Wish-list item #2: Enterprise user cloud service. I’d  be glad to pay for a service that lets me sync my entire desktop with a central resource — and I should be able to access my (virtualized) desktop using a browser from anywhere in the world.

What I am proposing is possible to some extent (email) using services offered by Nokia and Blackberry. And Microsoft offers its SkyDrive cloud storage service, which it is now adapting for Windows Phone Mango (expected later this year).

Wish-list item #3: Desktop backups to the cloud. If Microsoft SkyDrive was seamlessly integrated with Windows  XP/Vista/7 there would be a lot of potential for business use. Desktop backups for instance, would be easy and seamless.  And this is sure to address my daily juggling act. There’s a large base of Nokia smart phone users in India and a partnership with Microsoft on this front is sure to help Nokia regain lost market share.

RIM may also want to consider a cloud-like service that integrates with the Blackberry Desktop.

Meanwhile, there are folks like Dell who offer services like Desktop backup for enterprise users.

‘Get-rich-quick’ on the Net

During the 20-minute train commute home last week, a strategically placed sticker above a window caught my eye. The message on it (which I reveal at the end of this post) promoted a scheme that seemed like any of those alluring get-rich-quick-work-from-home offers. A second look got me thinking about how easy it is for one to earn some money, with just basic knowledge of the Internet. Some more thought went into it and as I neared the end of my journey, I thought that the Net and the plethora of its free tools and services is also a good medium to bring in fortunes (and hordes of customers) for a company. It is also a highly targeted way of advertising that goes beyond the “one-way” mode of traditional advertising.

Last week I also happened to meet Hari Krishnan, the Country Manager of LinkedIn India. Krishnan convinced me that social media is a boon for advertisers—if they knew the potential of the medium and how to use it to their advantage. Without naming the company he cited an interesting example.

Krishnan told me that a bank recently approached LinkedIn with a plan for a campaign for SMBs. So his team created a sponsored answers campaign on LinkedIn Answers. It asked a question to SMEs: What is it that you look for when pursuing a loan?  LinkedIn ran banner ads with this question, targeted at SME professionals only—and hence only SME professionals on LinkedIn saw that ad.

So in this context the SMEs knew that this was the bank (not an agency) talking to them and they started stating their views. The richness in context of answers came back directly to the advertiser (the bank).

I’m now convinced that social media offers advertisers and potential customers a platform for highly engaging and interactive advertising. And it also assures audience quality.

 Can you get this quality with click-through ads and page impressions? No.

And what was the alluring message on that sticker? Well, it offered INR 500 to INR 1,000 an hour. The message on the little sticker said, “Just open a (dummy) email account and then click on Google AdSense/AdWords links or fill marketing survey forms (read: with false credentials) and the (dummy) email address”.

Tsk-Tsk. I wonder how advertisers on Google will respond to this. Perhaps, they should now learn to use social network sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.