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September 23, 1999
Ram Shriram of Junglee, Amazon fame delivers keynotePriya Ganapati at Pragati Maidan
All through the keynote session this morning Shriram analysed and explained how Amazon is the best example of the change in business models with the emergence of the Internet economy.
The ubiquitous examples of Amazon.com, Dell.com and Ebay.com pepper most presentations.
Shriram forgot to account for the fatigue that sets into delegates who have heard the same examples repeated in every forum on the Internet and e-commerce.
After Junglee was acquired by Amazon, Shriram worked as the vice-president, business development, at Amazon.
Recently Shriram quit Amazon and has started his own start-up called 'Elance', an auction site for services on the Internet.
But Shriram is a grateful man. He dedicated his presentation to Amazon and throughout the presentation impressed upon the 800 odd delegates how wonderful the company is.
"I think Jeff Bezos is the world's luckiest man. He saw the rate at which the Internet is growing and saw the opportunity this presents. This is the folklore that I am telling you now. Jeff jumped into his little Honda Civic and wrote his business plans there. He saw the opportunity and decided to capitalise on it," he gushed.
Amazon.com has over 10.7 million customers and is considered to have one of the best shopping experiences for consumers on the Web.
Shriram said that there is a $5 trillion market opportunity for e-commerce today.
"What we are seeing is the biggest change in the economy since the industrial revolution," he proclaimed.
Shriram tried hard to justify his Amazon centric presentation. He said, "Amazon applies as a case study and an example. They built a strong talented team and focussed on providing the consumer with the best options."
Later, on a more cautious note Shriram listed out the pitfalls that an entrepreneur might face while starting an Internet business.
"One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is moving too slow. Look at traditional giants like Sears, K-Mart and Wal-Mart who were slow in getting on to the Web. They lost the initiative to companies like Amazon. You have to take risks in execution," Shriram explained.
He suggested that companies change their way of thinking if they want to be heard above the noise. "Customer retention is as important as customer acquisition. If you are losing customers faster than you are gaining them then it doesn't make sense. This continues to be a challenge even for AOL that is gaining two million customers on the front-end while losing about a million at the backend. If your churn rate is very high it is not a good indication of your business," Shriram warned.
He emphasised that companies need to go into product expansion in tune with their existing range of products. "You need to think about synergistic natural continuum of businesses," Shriram said.
The early bird catches the worm. Shriram reiterated that it is important to move in quick if entrepreneurs want a head start over the competition.
Shriram elaborated, "Always think of growing big fast. If you are not growing fast then you are following a wrong paradigm. Get broad fast and build your brand rapidly. And it is important to have a strong brand especially if you are into business-to-consumer kind of e-commerce."
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