Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Link"e"d in - Colligating jobs,partners & friends

Link"e"d in as the name says really has been instrumental in creation of one of the strongest and inviolable networks (one of its kind as there aren't many professional networks in this sea of social networking sites). And very easily Linked in has scaled up beyond being just a professional network to a combination of network and job portal that's has quality jobs (or does it not..)

What's surprising about Linked in is that while there were pioneers like monster, dice, jobsearch, ladders (Another website with a different model of functioning), sixfugurejobs (quite an ambitious name) who have been working on assisting jobseekers and headhunters to get the right fit, but post the advent of Linked in I personally feel that the process of job search will actually alter in the coming few years. I really don't know what could one get by the recommendations in Orkut or Facebook except for some ego massage but in Linked in the recommendations assist the user to apply for a job and might really help the user get a career push as well. I know enthusiasts are going to come back and corner me for other social networking sites are not just targeting professionals but infact they are actually doing what they are meant for. But I would leave that for discussions and as a subject for one of my next blogs.

I would actually give the credit for what Linked in is to its founding members and the Management team. Reid Hoffman has worked with iconic companies like PayPal, eBay, Allen Blue who mastered concept of social networking during his stint at socialNet, and Lloyd Taylor who worked with the biggest ever online company, Google. And then the current team of Linked in including CEO Dan Nye who managed the Investment Management business at Advent Software and CFO Steve Sordello who previously worked as CFO of Ask Jeeves.

I am not taking names just to promote them (and neither am I getting money for promoting Linked in) but to drive the point that each and every individual from this team actually gets a lot to the table from their diverse backgrounds and that's clearly visible from where they are headed to.

I am sure all these social-professional sites would be scaling themselves to a different business model but in Linked in I can see a big consulting company in the times to come with expertise on each and every industry vertical or horizontal and the stakeholders would just be the loyal members and these stakeholders would get a share of the pie of the consulting assignments they would be part of. Even if this sounds far fetched how about having the potential to be the No.1 providers of professional headcounts for any possible profile with their vast sea of networkers and information about the various job profile details. (And needless to say as networking sites, they are and they will remain pioneers in professional networking and we all know that networking is going to remain macrocosmic).

I would really want to understand from the fellow experts and enthusiasts in e-business as to how these socio-professional networking sites would be evolving themselves and whether their is a need for them to really evolve (going back to my previous post on change or perish, I think they will have to evolve)

Fac"e"book --> Tumblr.. moving towards Gen V(Virtual) .. POS

Recently "Tumblr" founder David Karp was in picture for having come up with one of the easiest platform for users to start blogging and I decided to have myself registered into it. When I looked at the features I realized that there is nothing out there that can actually differentiate Tumblr with other blogging sites, but that's what it is and we already have .17 mn registered users on that website. So what does this imply are we saying that tomorrow Facebook, Orkut Twitter and others will have to get meatier to keep up with the competition or will they just the way they always have will keep churning more users and keep making money out of the advertisements. Atleast that's the only mode of making money that these social networking sites have and the model seems to be well accepted in the e-business world.

But do we see an evolution in these social networking websites. Are these social networking sites going to remain what they are with the several widgets and application incorporated them or the architects of the web world and future entrepreneurs or some existing giant going to come up with more models to make these social networking sites a bigger point of sale. The reasons why I see in what I say happening, in times to come are cited below:

  1. A dedicated user base which is increasing exponentially on the web with the advent of Web 2.0

  2. A targeted audience for selling, easily meeting the criterion's for selling a product with the multitude of groups and communities being formed online

  3. Detailed profiling of the users available in the hands of the content managers who can easily do segmentation, targeting and positioning with the current set of information

  4. We haven't yet seen the end of marketplaces and aggregators, some new player might astonish the world with something bigger because technology never fails to throw surprises at us

    This thought certainly needs more discussion and deliberation as to what the future of Social Networking is ...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"e" tales

IBM sold primarily through its "brick and mortar" model before this huge giant named Dell transformed the way computers were sold. It wasn't just a strong focus on Supply Chain with the JIT (Just in time) inventory and decision to just assemble (that aspect has a different e-tale on its own) and not manufacture, but also a focus on having an on-line customer service where any customer would get the first response to their queries in within 2 hours and an appropriate link to the Dell website for any kind of support that's why Dell is called the pioneer in providing on-line support to their customers through the website.

Shopping stores were dictating terms before a bunch of guys decided to start a marketplace that could increase the purchasing power of the customer manifold by launching a portal named e-bay. Not that there was a dearth of marketplace, they were in plenty and everybody had focused on either B2B or B2C but e-bay realized the true potential of having a C2C marketplace (with specific focus on how to sell second hand stuff with their selling tips) and end users embraced this concept with open arms.

Each of Amazon, Citibank, Sears, Overstock have epitomized online selling and are continuously transforming themselves to meet the end customer needs.

While amazon claims that they are the biggest seller on the earth and there logo signifies they can sell anything from "a" to "z" with an arrow going from a to z and living up to the expectations of being the No. 1 book sellers the latest to come from their stable is a "Kindle: Amazon's New Wireless Reading Device" which is a Revolutionary electronic-paper display provides a sharp, high-resolution screen that looks and reads like real paper.

Overstock on the other hand with its over sized "O" to signify that they have all thats in this sphere which is directed towards the shape of the earth and, now are close to the real world when they advertise on the net that "Carlos Boozer " who would be playing for US in the Olympics '08 is sponsored by them.

Sears typically plays with the human mind of buying products only when they see a discount available on it through any form. Hence they have promotions of Sales and Coupons on their website and its affiliates. So if we look at it the typical advertising angle of "Aware-Interest-Trial-Adoption" Sears focusses directly on Adoption as they know that giving discount coupons would immediately take an user to the last hurdle of purchase if they are really interested in buying a product.

There's never a famine of examples and if you pick up any of the Marketing books you might see all these compani"e"s listed in them, but the point that I am trying to drive here is that how these companies are continuously enhancing themselves to live upto the expectations that have been set on them by the users and how competition is making them evolve continuously.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wh"e"re's Google headed ...

Google - a company that has literally reinvented the wheel by having a business that runs entirely in a virtual world. It's like having a whole new world with its own countries, states, languages, politicians, musicians, movie makers, scientists, doctors and a continuous aggregating population that's all gaga about this virtual world.

When I think how Google has evolved in the last 10-12 years from being a search engine dedicated to the Stanford University to now being a company that seems to be making the moves that no other company can match. AdSense & AdWords, Doubleclick, Orkut, Google maps, Google grid, blogger, Google checkout, translator and they all have direct competitors in aQuantive, Real, Facebook, Yahoo maps, Paypal( who had imagined Google's credibility to be at par with paypal) ... and to sum it all a solid user profiling by means of :

  1. The Google cookie
  2. Personalized search
  3. G-mail (All the contents of mail are actually scanned by Google)
  4. Google documents and spreadsheets
  5. Google Toolbar (Spyware that logs every click you make)
  6. Google web stats (Provides them with not only site-wide but also user-level statistics)

I am sure as times go by Google would be doing acquisitions of some Content Management softwares, proxy server vendors, ISP's so that they can reach uninterrupted to their users.. But moving on will that be it.

Will Google stop there or are we looking at an Googoperating system that would be available online for each and every user to download based on their need. Imagine having a customized Operating system with all the add-ons like docs, spreadsheets, project, communicator, video driver, audio driver depending on your system specifications and user needs and a varying cost for this operating system as you pay for only what you use - " A $50 for the first time installation ", I know it's far fetched but can it really happen and if it does happen then the Microsoft's, the Mac's and the LINUX's are certainly going to have a run for their money. OR say how about taking the Oracle's and SAP's headon by having the most effective and efficient Transportation Management and Warehouse Management systems by letting the user's decide based on Google maps and Google earth as to what can be the best location for a W/H or a Route or least to say partner with an organization and tell them that your employees don't look happy with your company and in last one month we have had 1300 of your employees looking at job portals through i-Google desktop.. Though I am sure they would not want to do the last and loose out on such a loyal customer base ...

Was wondering if there are people who think like me and I am sure experts have written a lot about the next move on Google so any pointers to that will be appreciated and never know we might have a new story brewing up for yet another book " Google - The chronicles lead to a bigger story"!!!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

"e"lectronics products - Dell or Amazon !!!

Whenever I plan to buy an electronics item after looking at all other opportunities like e-bay(could have left e-bay aside as these guys are primarily resellers and work on a marketplace model), best buy, deals4all, circuit city, buy and several other online vendors my gut insists me to keep going back to Dell or Amazon (Not considering the one time opportunities available with vendors like woot, dealcatcher etc).
I wonder if this is something to do with just me or it happens with others as well. I am sure and the numbers can talk that all the former set of online vendors that I mentioned too have loyal customers and they have been pioneers in doing a several strategies that has wooed people to them. But even then why is it that Kotler's and Drucker's of the marketing world just don't have too many words for these other vendors. I can cite some reasons for the same :
  1. The brand built for over (at least) a decade
  2. A strong focus on customer satisfaction and customer retention
  3. A strong collaborative relation with the payment & logistics partners
  4. Solid technology focus as support functions
  5. Economies of scale (knowing that most of the other vendors are present only in US)
  6. Outsourcing

I am sure that these points are cliche' as they have been repeated over and over again by people but the point I am driving here is that these brands have done it over years and hence they manage to be No. 1 or No.2 in the business they are in and this trend is suspected to continue further. So what about these other vendors, do these vendors come take advantage of the windfalls during peak periods and then focus on regular sales if any from their loyal customers.

So some questions that I pose to myself and to the rest of the people who would be interested in participating into this forum are:

  • How long would these vendors survive?
  • Are we on the edge of another dotcom burst?
  • If most of other vendors manage to meet even 4 of the 6 points I mentioned above then what changes would the leaders have to do further to ensure that they remain leaders?
  • What can be some new initiatives taken by the other vendors so that they can get a First Movers Advantage (FMA)?

To answer these questions I just have a one line answer " change or perish " and this principle needs to be followed by not just the followers but also the leaders else we might expect another burst in the years to come.

Any takers .....

The word e-business

"e-business" this word is become ubiquitous today and each and every company and the marketing gurus across the globe are advising companies to embrace e-business open heartedly.

When I talk to people in the business world and specially if he is a marketing guy all that he would talk about is how e-marketing and e-advertising is changing our outlook towards promoting our company and examples like Google's ad-sense, double click and Microsoft's acquisition of aQuantive are given. If the same question of how business is embracing the "e" to a manufacturing guy he would immediately quote e.g.'s of the SAPs and Oracles of the world(which are still just ERP's and not completely run with the e-ngine) and of the Sterling Commerces and Aribas on how these best of breed packages are making the supplier relation so manageable and how web has helped them build lasting partnerships... And similarly if I talk to a Human Resource professional he would immediately lay out the best practices that are being adopted to have an internal (and this no longer remains internal with excessive amount of outsourcing done on the HR front) portal within the organization through which the employee can get the best of benefits and all the queries, suggestions, salary disbursement, leave tracking et al happen effectively, and all this to keep the internal customers happy... One can go on and on and the e-business saga is becoming an integrated part of each and every organizations and departments.

In one line I would describe e-business as "Virtual world being created at the backend in organizations to make the front end look like a child's play".

Curious if adepts/tyros can give me more such one liners to really define "e-business" ....