The growth of the internet has opened up a vast arena for small to medium-sized enterprises to sell their products and services to a global audience than they would have been able to afford to reach using the traditional methods
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) worldwide, and particularly in India, face a number of problems—high cost of growing sales into new geographies and customer segments, weak record-keeping of sales and support activities and inadequate creation and maintenance of electronic marketing materials.
While the internet holds out great promise to address these problems to some extent, most isolated efforts simply end up in failure. For example, a businessman may decide to take advantage of the internet by soliciting more global customers using email. Within a few days, his email account will likely be blacklisted by spam control sites on the internet. Similarly, efforts to organise sales records by keeping them in an internet based “cloud folder” simply invite a myriad of security risks and data theft possibilities which the average businessman cannot resolve. Finally, attempts to organise marketing materials on a common file share in the organisation inevitably run into disorder caused by lack of integration with databases of record. How many files must be changed if the business’s phone number changes?
Despite all these roadblocks, interest in using the internet among SMEs in India remains high. According to the Google Survey, 2010, SMEs using internet for demand generation is about 57% of the total registered numbers. With the total numbers of registered SMEs at 15.5 lakh, the conservative estimate of internet-enriched SMEs is at an astounding 7,00,000. The most commonly accepted estimate of the unorganised SME market numbers is 2.5 crore, and with this added size, it is a moot point on the incisive and effective role the Web and e-marketplaces play in shaping potential businesses in India.
Further, business to business (B2B) e-commerce remains a huge driver of economic activity and growth. According to the report by Eprobe Research, B2B e-commerce market size (in terms of transaction volume) as on year-end 2008 was around $77.9 billion. B2B e-commerce market has been increasing at a rapid pace, reaching about $89 billion by December 2009, at a CAGR of 8.77%.
To plug this gap between huge potential and somewhat weak reality, the ubiquity of internet technologies needs to be complemented with some key elements:
* Businesses need to be able to find each other as buyers and