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|August 27, 1998
A happening day at IIWMadhuri Velegar K and Priya Ganapati at Pragati Maidan
Rosy-fingered Dawn found the participants at the India Internet World exhibition arise with a new sense of anticipation. For this morning, two heavyweight speakers, Gene De Rose, founder and chairman Jupiter Communications and Sabeer Bhatia, founder and chief executive officer of Hotmail, were to take centre stage.
For a few others who waited outside, the surprise package was former prime minister Narasimha Rao who wandered in. While Rao was his usual taciturn self, the speakers inside were articulate and prepared, providing more than just a vision of Internet consumer behaviour and strategy models to an packed audience.
The stalls put by more than 44 vendors and developers were gay, even colourful. There was music playing, girls moving sinuously, clad in the in-fashion kanjeevaram saree. There was always the odd corporate bigwig trotting along busily, ear buried into cellphone, trying to catch up with new information before having come to grips with the old.
Vrushala Damla of Krupp Industries, Pune, however, expressed disappointment.
"It's really not fair that the proceedings of these conferences were not handed out to the delegates; after we've paid a tidy sum just to register. Now they tell us a CD of the entire proceedings will be sent to us -- but at a cost of Rs 3,000! I can't get my management seniors to approve that now, and what am I going back with ? I don't think my company will want me to attend another conference like this.''
While some speakers were excellent with their presentations, among them Melanie Hills of Knowledgies, Madanmohan Rao of Planetasia, Jim Sterne of Target... There were also others who did not quite fit in the top bracket.
The media centre awkwardly situated on the top floor of the building consisted of 40 per cent guests and 60 per cent scribes working on the 10 Net terminals. Of course, the fax still did not work. And there was only one STD phone.
The talks centred around two major subjects -- Intranets and Extranets and advertising on the Net.
The lecture on global internet roaming services by Chris Moore, chief executive officer, iPass, was useful but, according to a few, was a bit ahead of the times for the Indian market. However, both iPass and Microland are announcing a joint venture, iPass offering some technology for Internet access points.
Kar shakes his head sorrowfully when asked about the fee, but says : "We hope to give these access points out to local ISPs when they come into being -- which could be anytime now.''
Joel Maloff, founder of Maloff, was to speak but finally it was Amitabh Kumar, acting CMD, VSNL, talked about the Indian ISP scene. Razi Mohiuddin, vice-president of Infodata Systems gave a small but informative talk on dos and don'ts of Web retailing.
The talk by Sunil Rajshekar from Times Interactive, and the panel session compered by Madanmohan Rao on advertising on the net covered good ground. They essentially suggested that newspapers had now to go beyond news, to deliver news as it happened. The panel sessions could have been planned with fewer speakers, though. There were seven or eight of them each time. It wouldn't have been so bad if things were more informal, without an answer to every question being expected, nay, demanded.
Sabeer Bhatia was mobbed after his lecture, which was peppered with tips on making business strategies unique. Delegates, reporters, television crew, and PR personnel scurried after him to his next destination.
People queued up for hours but were allowed entry only from 4 to 6. Not enough time, one visitor complained. But one of the participants wasn't so sympathetic.
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