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Amazon Acquires Shelfari, Good for us

Written by Rajesh Kumar on August 29, 2008 – 1:56 pm

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As a person who buys loves to buy books every now and then, I have faced a constant nag. The stores in the town sell books that in their judgment, will move. They are not necessarily the books that match my taste or are the best. There are many occasions I just spend considerable time in a store and decide there’s nothing worthwhile to buy.Quite simply, there is not a single place where I can know about books, discuss them, and buy them right there.Not upto now at least.

My quest to know about books on marketing, business in general, great companies, business legends and so on got me connected to Shelfari some months back. Social networking to me till that point only meant leaving a few Orkuts scraps in iNcOmPrEhEnSiBlE blob of words and so on. Gradually I started following Shelfari and though I do notice that the level of action is not very high, I love the site for the books specific focus and the ability to have user provided reviews, discussions etc. If you are half sure on a title, ask ‘do you suggest I buy this book’ to folks who own that title.

It was announced today that Shelfari is has followed Skype into being another web property to be acquired by Amazon. Shelfari has seemingly good synergy and complimentary offerings with Amazon book section. It will be safe to assume that Amazon would use the social elements of Shelfari platform to generate book sales. Amazon would be able to tap discussions on books, see get to see early on demand being created by user generated reviews and ratings, opinions and discussions.Book lovers would almost certainly be able to buy those books there. Is social networking taking a new meaning here? Would Amazon use this platform to make people chat on other merchandise it sells?

Logical query: Are we going to see domain specific social networking sites getting consolidated by large ‘downstream’ or ‘upstream’ or ‘proximate’ players’?


Posted in Business, Business Books | 2 Comments »

Why the iPhone would bomb in India

Written by Rajesh Kumar on August 22, 2008 – 10:25 pm

I am being a little audacious in making an emphatic pronouncement on something that has got an amazing hype in India in last few days. But somehow all the hype does not  generate any great confidence in likelihood of  Apple iPhone being any great success in India. Here’s why I feel so:

  1. Of course, the price, it is obscene(NDTV’s Vikram Chandra felt it was only ‘slightly expensive’ though!).
  2. SMS is important for Indian mobile users, unlike the US where it is possible to come across many business executives who do not  use SMS. The iPhone is not crafted for heavy SMS usage
  3. Yes, I know iPhone is not a  phone for business executives, but then that’s another reason in favour of my argument.
  4. Far superior cameras are available in phones in 15 K range.
  5. We do not love buying digital music so much. If we want, it is generally available,you know what I mean. iTunes what?
  6. Operator bundling militates against our nature. In a city like Chennai and most part of India, we have three to four GSM service providers. It makes us feel lot of freedom and surrendering that choice does not go with our nature, it is all in the mind.
  7. iPhone versus iPhone- Bunty can buy the iPhone in Amrika, get it unlocked on the corner-shop and use it in Patiala. Hello, Bunty is already using it- Why should he pay so much more to buy from India? And he can use it with any operator.Can Apple handle this channel conflict without relooking at the price?
  8. Timing wise, August is not the time Indians are in great mood to spend big monies. That happens to be Diwali and around.That’s when the best launches tend to work. 
  9. Apple is otherwise pretty much unknown commodity in India. Apple? 
  10. 3G? No comments.

 

Did not surprise me that there are no pictures of any queues outside stores last night. BTW, do you agree with the above?


Posted in Business | 14 Comments »

New Media Opens Up to Investor Relations?

Written by Rajesh Kumar on August 6, 2008 – 11:00 pm

Almost all publicly listed and traded companies have a department that’s usually called investor relations or like. Their job is to ensure appropriate shareholder communication. Investor relations is a crafted art and normally speaking, companies are very careful about any form of communication between investors and management - casual conversations are a strict no, all that is to be spoken is prepared and rehearsed. The fright of of the investor relations team also hovers around what the management bosses would possibly  start to talk  on their blog - something that has a bearing on the stock, or seen to be having a bearing on the stock. Agencies such as Securities and Exchange Commission (US) and SEBI usually frown on communication that violate of the stated and unstated guidelines on shareholder communication. Enter the new SEC.

Via Ebay’s official blog, we learn that SEC in US has introduced new guidelines and recognized the social dimension of communication.

“The last time the SEC issued guidance in this area, the idea of ’social networks’ hadn’t yet been developed, and creating a social network where shareholders could meet and exchange views was barely imaginable,” said SEC Chairman Christopher Cox.” Ongoing developments in technology have increased both the markets’ and investors’ demand for more timely company disclosure on the Web, and in turn, raised new securities law issues for public companies to consider. The guidance issued today clarifies the rules of the road so investors can gain — quickly and in a cost-effective manner — the benefits of Internet disclosure of the latest information on the companies they own or are considering buying.”

Clearly this goes a mile. The issue here appears interactive nature of blog format which allowed for two way communication and content was not static. It also does away with the requirement of a communication to acquire a printer-friendly format, which means an investor communication could even be blogpost, a Tweet, or multimedia film, or a flash based slides. Awesome.In one stroke, SEC gave a big leg-up to faster communication. When will the rest of the world adopt this?

Read my favorite CEO Blog- Sun’s Jonathan Schwartz is an old time blogger Why, his General Counsel Mile Dillion blogs too. Mike should be relieved at the above developments.


Posted in Business | No Comments »

Online Business in India and a perspective

Written by Rajesh Kumar on August 6, 2008 – 1:00 am

Ashish Sinha of PluGGd.in noted over a tweet yesterday morning that Ebay India does about a transaction a minute. That makes it 1440 transactions a day and considering that many of these transactions would be not so high in value, the daily turnover of Ebay India would appear pathetically lamentable. That is the state of a country of a billion people and often billed as IT powerhouse.

Sadly, as I noted earlier, it is the smaller countries in the world that are the best wired today. But then online commerce is not just about net penetration alone.The Tweet debate with Mayank Gupta  and Ashish was whether it is true that  the inhibiting factor is the Indian attitude to touch and feel buying, rather than click and buying. I do not think this is completely true. We as investors in securities, do massive online trading, hold our shares electronically and so on. We buy airline and train tickets online and many of us buy books and music online too.  Why, India could be an example of how matrimonial sites do roaring business with Shaadi and Bharatmatrimony setting a trend. And there are several sites doing property and property rental brokerages such as MagicBricks and 99Acres and so on. The numbers may be small, regionally skewed towards south India, but certainly. The story is different in consumer durables, such as white goods, furniture etc.

The press release from Income Tax Department points out that over 1.25 lmillion annual tax returns were filed electronically- returnees either did it themselves, or relied on an accountant to do so. That’s certainly a good baby step in doing things online. The point to note is that while the net subscriber base has not taken off as envisaged, the mobile operators continue to add a million subscribers a month. Add the 3G spectrum auction news and you come to conclude that online commerce in India would perhaps take off via the mobiles.


Posted in Business | 5 Comments »