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August 24, 1998


HCL Infosystems

IBM-Is e-Business for you?

Madhuri Velegar K & Priya Ganapati in New Delhi

The beta jamboree: India Internet World '98, the country's first Web fair, is hours away. Only there is no Net industry to talk of. Is this vapourware or a prerelease on the seminar circuit? Sultry Delhi is a night away from the I-Day jamboree. For starting on the morning of August 25, till the evening of August 28 will be a huge conglomeration of lectures and discussions on India's latest discovery: The Internet.

Click through to daily reports from IIW '98.  
A conference and exhibition of over 40 companies including IBM, Wipro and Microsoft will occupy the centrestage at the India Internet World - 'Where The Internet Means Business'.

Email this story to a friend. The fair is likely to unveil key Internet players at home and abroad. Internet infrastructure companies, Web solution companies, content developers and Internet service organisations will fill the Pragati Maidan with a wide spectrum of knowledge.

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But why an event on the Internet? Why now? Prakash Gurbaxani, CEO, Micromedia, the Indian organisers of the event, says: "We always begin something that seems premature but it's also the way we reach anywhere first. And just because something is not there, it's all the more necessary to build awareness.''

However, when you walk around the Maidan, watching banners being tied, the blue and grey carpets being laid and the huge pool of over 850 workers sweating with hammers and nails to bring the infrastructure in place, you see India being spruced up not to join the Internet community but to be there, be curious and be ready when the time is right.

The India Internet World idea was born in December 1996 in the office of Microland, tucked away in Koramangala, a serene by lane in Bangalore.

Pradeep Kar, chairman and managing director, Micromedia, and Gurbaxani, in association with Mecklermedia, believe that India is ready for such a show and conducting it validates the timing.

Though Kar was busy with last minute arrangements, Michael Westcott, managing director, Asia Pacific Mecklermedia, sweating in khaki shorts, spoke about the need for such an event.

He said, "This trade exhibition is only conducted to do business. You really can't have mom and dad coming in here to watch the goodies. It's a business-to-business venture where our exhibitors, nearly 60 of them are here specifically to make deals, introduce new products or simply flagwave their brand. Basically, people are here to do business.''

India is labelled an "info-tiger economy" by Michael Connors, author of The Race to the Intelligent State, which operates on its own rules and regulations and has the ability to transcend national barriers with unprecedented ease.

"After all, who are all those who are working in Silicon Valley today,'' asks Westcott who fully agrees with the phrase, "more than half of them are from India. India has an extremely good knowledge base and we believe that India is an emerging market for the information technology to take form.''

The conference that is in the throes of being born tomorrow is absolutely huge, probably the largest ever held in India. Check the statistics:

  • Sixty conference sessions spread tightly over four morning and afternoons.
  • 18 marketing, 20 businesses and 33 technology sessions.
  • Six interactive panel discussions.
  • Six keynotes by pioneers including Sabeer Bhatia of Hotmail; Gene DeRose of Jupiter Communication and William Melton of CyberCash.
  • 20,000-40,000 visitors are expected to walk into Pragati Maidan and 1,500 delegates are to attend over four days.
  • Sixty exhibitors are showcasing their wares and attempting to do business.
  • Over 100,000 square feet of area with 55,000 square feet of exhibition space in harness.

The 60-odd conference sessions are categorised into five sections:

  • Intranet/Extranet
  • Internet: the New Medium
  • Business on the Net
  • Content world
  • ISP world

In addition, there are four pre-conference forums slated to begin tomorrow morning. These are categorised broadly under

  • The foundation forum
  • The application developer forum
  • The visual developer forum
  • The e-commerce forum.

Evenings will be spent discussing threadbare issues related to cyberlaws, the Internet and the banking and finance industry.

And most importantly, expectations of potential Internet service providers.

Sadly, the much awaited duo, Rakesh Mathur and Ashish Gupta from Junglee Corporation, who were slated to attract the industry's elite, have dropped out from the event due to legal procedures involving their recent deal with

Sandra Morris, one of the keynoters from Intel, also dropped out this morning and in her place will be Tim Bernes, director Asia Pacific, Intel.

The media events organised painstakingly since the last two and half months by Text 100 seems to be ready, except for a few 100 details.

But then again, as Westcott says: "Despite all our efforts, we've been here since the last three days, clocking over 30,000 man-hours, there will be some glitches, some mix-ups but we're still trying very hard to keep the quality of this event consistent with some of the best in the world.''

The Indian Trade and Promotion Organisation's team of 300 people helped sweep the roads, cleaned the toilets, and cleared all the trash: So the picture may well be perfect by tomorrow morning.

Gurbaxani believes "This event will create more awareness on e-business, and thinking of this idea and bringing it to fruition was a compelling experience.''

Incidentally, Micromedia, which is currently a part of Microland, will become an independent company in about 90-120 days from now. They will continue to organise such conferences with an underlined focus on the Internet in the future.

The entire operation, despite many generous sponsors like Lucent Technologies, Tacker Technologies and Cisco who helped with creating the Net backbone, cost the organisers a cool Rs 50 million.

One of the exhibitors, Subhir Mazumdar of Showbiz, who is setting up the IBM stall, says: "We're not getting any money out of this event. I don't know where it is all going because we're not only badly paid for the job but we've also been told to set up this elaborate stall in just 36 hours. I think it's just going to be one big chaotic mela, but one that cannot be missed out by anyone who matters in the business.''

While a class of workers continues to crib into the night about not getting a cuppa of much needed chai, there are many others who may well benefit from this conference.

Gurbaxani says: "The Internet is a great leveller and whether you're sitting in New York or in a cubby hole in Borivali, Bombay, the business you do is the same.''

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