fifth and last session, titled 'Small And Medium Businesses (SMBs): Coffee Is Not Expensive And It Does Not Put You To Sleep', panellists discussed whether the Internet was really a cost-effective medium for SMBs. And if the Internet is indeed a less expensive media which can be used locally as well globally and provides the option to measure the results of an online campaign instantly using web analytics, then why are SMBs not taking it up?
Session moderator Shailesh Rao, managing director, Google India, said, "Out of 4.5 million SMBs in India, 750,000 have some access to the computer and only 170,000 have their own websites. SMBs are actually the foundation of our business and they can make good use of the digital medium." In fact, Google earns 80 per cent of its revenue from serving small businesses.
"SMBs can use search marketing and, with a limited amount of money, they can control their campaign as they can stop the online campaign within minutes if they run out of advertising money," said Bhargava.
Harish Bahl, CEO, Studio Smile Interactive, suggested, "SMBs should understand the digital medium first by becoming a netizen and trying it out on their own, and learning what the digital medium can deliver to them."
Kiran Gopinath, CEO Ozone Media, said that SMBs could start small by advertising on a classified site, which usually offers free posting of ads and move ahead later. However, he added that the he did not see SMBs as a viable segment in online advertising for the next two years.
Rattan KK, head, Global Delivery Centre, Pinstorm Technologies, said, "The Internet offers a variety of marketing options and there are questions in the mind of a business owner like what I am going to sell online, what type of leads I can generate on the Net, how can I build a relationship with the customers? But SMBs should be clear about what they want out of Internet marketing."
Dinesh Agarwal, founder and CEO, Indiamart.com, said, "There is a need to communicate and educate SMEs on how they can use the Internet and why Internet marketing makes sense for them." He added that the segment should focus on e-commerce "because finding the right buyer and supplier is important".
Rao added that there was a need to educate small businesses about online marketing through workshops and seminars.
Though there were not many SMBs in the audience, the panel did get queries on how the Internet could be used for marketing - from a nicotine de-addiction helpline to a pet exhibition.