“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist. Investing is not a game where the guy with the 160 IQ beats the guy with 130 IQ.”

– Warrant Buffet

It seems nowadays that taking your business online is a natural course of action. Being a digital marketer, I have met quite a few entrepreneurs and even start-up entrepreneurs contemplating creating a virtual image of their traditional business. My opinion: it’s easier said that done. Their motivation: mind boggling numbers. India is the third largest Internet user with over 70 million users. 75 percent of users are under the age of 35 which means they are likely to have credit cards or net banking, hence more suitable and ready for online transactions. The blessing for them is that the likes of Jabong and Flipkart are marketing the concept of online buying with aggression plus their high valuation has only increased the interest of entrepreneurs.  Having said that, most VCs are more willing to seed or fund an online venture than a traditional, hackneyed business model.

So, why is it easier said than done? Let’s begin from basic facts. Most entrepreneurs are pregnant with the notion that online is cheap, and success in the garb of revenue comes fast and thick. That’s not true. You might be able to code a portal cheap with open source, but marketing is tricky with a very unpredictable consumer behavior. You ask even an industry veteran the cost per registered user, and he’ll stitch his eyebrows. There’s no definite answer. Then marketing is not as cheap as one thinks. A mix-up of media buying, SEM, social media marketing and search needs solid self-funding or angel investment. The good old theory of creating a brand out of zilch applies, sadly and fortunately, to online brands as well. Remember, the kiosk and desktop consumer is the same.

Online marketing needs patience. Contrary to the general notion, you cannot have users queuing up on your portal within the first few weeks of marketing. Secondly, the yardsticks for measuring performances need to be real. Most traditional businesses when going online expect digital marketing consultants to circle their magic wand and produce magical results. That doesn’t happen, sorry. Like hiring a driver does not mean that you cannot meet an accident, hiring a digital marketing consultant does not mean that your marketing efforts cannot go wrong (I can quite unabashedly say that).

Lest I sound skeptic, I think online business should be based on right foundations to begin with. Do the number crunching, understand the consumer behavior by purchasing reliable research reports, and then listen closely to that voice from the gut. Hire a marketing consultant who believes in your idea. If he doesn’t buy your idea, it’s unlikely he will be able to penetrate it online!


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