'Effective use of five webs key to business model innovation'

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 31, 2013 19:20 hrs

The world is in the post-PC world and for business model innovation to happen, companies should make effective use of the five webs. This was the message conveyed by Professors Venkat K Venkatraman, David J McGrath Jr Professor of Management at the Boston University School of Management.

Speaking at GuruSpeak, a workshop organised by Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta (IIM-C) Alumni Association, Venkatraman said that machine web, mobile web, social web, real-time web and media web were the five important innovation tools.

Talking about the 'webs' in detail, he gave the example of Toyota Friend, a private social network created by the company for the car-owners wherein the car would send automatic alerts to the owner on when the car would need servicing or a new battery. This could also be shared to one's social network platform, he further said.

Hence, the key was to leverage the infrastructure to create value, he said. Nike Plus Fuelband was cited as an example by the professor. This band, introduced by the sports shoes and sports accessory brand, allowed users to calculate the amount of calories that they burnt everyday and also gave details of steps walked each day and time taken for the same. One simple band, according to Prof Venkatraman, was able to motivate people to strictly adhere to their exercise regiment and perform better each day.

Mobile web was another aspect of the five webs, according to Prof. Venkatraman. He explained that mobile phones were able to reach 80 per cent of the world population in less than 10 years, a feat that could not be accomplished by any other product. Even in the telecom space, he explained that there were only a few players who could innovate. Giving the example of Apple, he said that this company perfected the technology while others took longer. Due to this, he said that the iPhone business became the most profitable business in the world.

He further said that companies were already experimenting with this technology. "Multinational grocery retailer Tesco experimented with this technology in Seoul, where they used digital advertisements of their product along pathways of subways and stations. Here, without occupying physical space, the retailer was able to attract the attention of office-goers who could scan the code on these signages and get the product delivered home," he said. Prof Venkatraman also spoke about the use of mobiles by financial services firms as payment tools and wallets.

On the Social web segment, he opined that companies had made effective use of social media platforms like Facebook to connect to users in an interactive manner. With respect to the concept of media web, Prof Venkatraman spoke about how advertisers had made effective use of the portal YouTube to run campaigns. Lastly, real-time web especially Twitter was referred to, by him, as an effective tool to start and engage customers in an ongoing dialogue. He gave the example of sports theme products and beverages brand Gatorade which used Twitter to become a participatory brand, adding that real-time web will be powered by increased availability of sensors.

Venkatraman also remarked that it was crucial for companies in India to make effective digitisation of business and innovation. "One should not wait for other companies to do an innovation and then follow it. Think about what this means for your company and your customers," he added.

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