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September 11, 1999


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e-Commerce Guru Publishes 'A Roadmap'

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Sonia Chopra

Ravi Kalakota Six years ago, the research papers of a 26-year-old Ph D student at the University of Texas caught the attention of publisher Addison-Wesley, who contacted him with a suggestion that he wrote a book on interactive multimedia.

After a couple of months of research, it became clear to Ravi Kalakota that the driving force behind the growth of the Web was electronic commerce. "This realization changed my life as I focused all my energy in understanding the internal workings of electronic commerce," says Kalkota, author of several widely used textbooks on e-commerce strategy.

Kalakota is also a professor, strategist, and speaker, and author. He has consulted extensively in the e-commerce area with Fortune 1000 companies, and is the founder and CEO of e-Business Strategies and director of the Center for Digital Commerce in Atlanta.

His newest book, e-Business: Roadmap for Success, co-written with wife Marica Robinson and Don Tapscott has received slew of positive reviews and endorsements.

"This is the first book on e-business to provide a clarity of vision that will help you to appreciate the true significance of e-business, with a rigorous roadmap for reinventing your business design," says Mohanbir Sawhney, Tribune professor of electronic commerce and technology, Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University.

"If you want to avoid being blindsided by your competition, you must make this book required reading in your organization," says Professor Sawhney, who is acknowledged to be one of the gurus of the Internet.

According to Frances Frei, assistant professor, Harvard Business School: "This is the book for creating a serious e-business strategy. A must-read for managers who are creating tomorrow's e-business companies today."

"It's clear we're on the cusp of a new era. e-Business: Roadmap for Success serves as a guidebook to the new electronic business place where the rules of engagement are changing and where only one thing is certain: the status quo will not be maintained," says Alan Baratz, President, Java Software, Sun Microsystems, Inc.

As e-commerce solutions, enterprise applications, and business models converge in new ways, a tidal wave of change is transforming industries, redefining competitive strategies, and destroying traditional thinking. To survive and thrive in the e-commerce world, established industry leaders to feisty upstarts are striving to make themselves into lean business machines that satisfy and retain customers better than ever before.

The writers argue they do so not with new products or innovative technology, but with superior e-business designs. Start-ups like and some nimble established firms such as Cisco, have created e-business designs by which they serve customers, differentiate their supply chains, integrate their selling chains, procure products, and nurture relationships, according to the book.

The three writers also illustrate in e-Business: Roadmap for Success how managers are rewiring the business scenario to confront the e-commerce onslaught -- uprooting traditional business applications as we know them. The authors create an innovative application framework for structural migration from a legacy model to an e-business model.

Kalakota, an Eminent Scholar at the Georgia State University, says he has been obsessed with the Web for nearly a decade. Even though, in the early 1990s, the World Wide Web was a little more than an idea, he "decided to make it the focus" of his doctorate studies.

"We realized as early as 1991, back in Texas, that Internet communication was destined to change the world, not just business," said Kalakota.

Kalakota, a graduate from Osmania University, Hyderabad, came to Hawaii to study computer science.

"That's where it all began. Hawaii was the place to be. My earliest work was on networks and packet-switching technology, and that is what attracted me. They developed that technology, in part, as a matter of necessity, to transmit large quantities of data among the Hawaiian islands.

"I was in the right place at the right time. It was partly luck and partly drive," said Kalakota, explaining his absorption in his all encompassing speciality. It was not something he had consciously thought out when earned his bachelor's degree, also in computer science.

Later, however, he temporarily entertained the idea of working on an MBA at Harvard but decided instead to stay in information systems attending the University of Texas at Austin.

Kalakota, who did not even have access to a computer until he was 17, was a quick student. His mathematical mind, which was responsible for his interest in computer science, began to study the patterns of business. His advisors impressed by his knowledge, pushed him into writing a book.

"I was forced into it," said Kalakota laughing. "But I knew I had to write the e-commerce Bible. It was needed for others to follow." The 800-page book called, Frontiers of Electronic Commerce was published in 1995.

The book was a phenomenal success and was on the No 1 slot on the Amazon website for months, receiving good reviews from critics and readers. "It was the first book of its kind and the only one available for a long time," says Kalakota, matter-of-factly.

The book caught the attention of many companies and he was invited on many speaking engagements. His first consulting contract was with AT&T.

Kalakota realizes the AT&T experience showed him how hard it was to incorporate e-commerce related changes for any company. "That experience is what taught me how difficult it is to get major businesses to change and accommodate to the new technology of the Internet," he said.

He uses the metaphor of an overweight person to try to explain the bloated, bulky and heavy resources that companies surround themselves with, firmly believing that these are all assets.

"It's like they are sailing along, doing good business, and then suddenly a start-up attacks them. Top management suddenly says they have to lose weight. Lose the bulk, drop the load. But the line managers are working hard, getting results, headed fast in the direction of solving company problems and meeting challenges, they have no spare time," Kalakota said.

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