The Times of India – Ahmedabad

Who can teach a Gujarati to do business? It’s like wondering whether a duck can take to water. When it comes to commerce and trade, Gujaratis are the Number One Community –making money is in our genes.

This penchant for creating wealth is only going to get honed further under the new Internet regime, where the Gujarati business acumen has found a new expression in “e-vyapar.” In fact, it is time now for the industrious Gujaratis to help the state move ahead in the e-commerce domain.

Today, the Internet revolution is upon us. With the Internet arriving, “e-vyapar,” has the potential to grow into a gargantuan Rs. 15,000 crore entity in 2001-02 and Rs. 50,000 crore in 2002-03 (according to e-commerce transaction figures put forth by a Nasscom-McKinsey study, the figures would reach a mind boggling $61 billion by 2008). All roads, it appears, are leading to this newly emerging “e-vyapar” environment.

Besides the industry, the Government too has stepped up its efforts to create a climate that’s conducive to the conduct of e-commerce in India. The IT Act 2000, encompassing an array of cyber laws is on the brink of implementation. Tomorrow the Government will announce the rules governing e-commerce.

The writing is clearly on the wall now. Gujarat has to leverage its intrinsic business strengths, and channelize them towards the new e-world.From leadership in the traditional brick and mortar realm, Gujarat will have to look at how it can create an edge for itself in the electronic cyber space. Gujarat, therefore, has to acquaint itself with the click and portal economy fundamentals.

For both India and Gujarat, this is a second tryst with destiny. August 15 symbolizes the attainment of not just political freedom for India, but also and unshackling of the old economy and the move towards the attainment of “e-vyapar” nirvana. Opportunity is knocking at the doors of Gujarat and we must wrest it with both hands. To begin with, Gujarat will have to look at ways and means whereby “old economy” companies metamorphose into 21st century, e-commerce oriented organizations. Let’s help set up “e-vyapar” tranformation centers in Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Surat, Ahmedabad, Vadodra, Mehsana, Porbandar, Anand, Navsari, Ankleshwar etc.

India is opening its gateways to foreign dotcom giants as well. The big names in the Internet space such as Commerce One, Ariba, i2 among others, are coming in not just with the necessary financial muscle, but also their “e-vyapar” experience, their best practices” and their innovative, Internet survival strategies.

Gujarat has to take the lead in attracting these global majors to its portals. Gujarat also has to plunge into the e-commerce arena with gusto, ensuring that the maximum incentives for e-commerce come from the direction of the Sabarmati.

Gandhinagar should take the progressive stand of declaring a five-year moratorium on e-commerce taxation. Both industry and government should join hands to ensure that telecom infrastructure (a key perquisite for e-vyapar) is strong, robust and reliable.

Already we have commitments from industry kingpins such as Reliance that would be putting its mite behind infrastructure development within Gujarat. The goal then for us should be to provide, over the next two years, (as a constitutional right) 2Mbps of bandwidth to every adult citizen. Had the Internet been available to the stalwarts of India’s freedom movement, they would certainly have used it as a tool to fight off not merely the foreign yoke, but also free India from the fetters of economic hardship.

“E-vyapar” would have been as much of a goal then as it is today. In fact, we have to look at how we can complete the unfinished business and achieve the unfulfilled promises of our earlier leaders. If we have to wipe the tears off every Gujarati’s eye, we have to build some of the vision and foresight our old world champions had created for the nation. Let e-vyapar be Gujarat’s mantra then for the next decade.