Chennai: "To run an effective B2B business, presence in both online and offline is essential," says IPFonline managing director E N Venkat. He says offline presence provides the touch-and-feel aspect to users, giving them the comfort and trust on online services offered. "More importantly, the customer understands the cost involved in providing various services."
At a time when most B2B sites are finding it difficult to sustain, IPFonline, the Chennai-based engineering and textiles infomediary, is combining its long-standing online presence publications like Industrial Products Finder, Indian Textile Journal, Fabric Resource Guide, Accessories Resource Guide, All India Textiles Directory with its online venture www.ipfonline.com.
IPFonline is basically a conversion of pure print publications like Industrial Products Finder and others into a B2B portal with additional features enabled by the Web. The transformation happened two years back when the Housing Development and Finance Corporation, the IL&FS group and the funds managed by their venture corporation IVC invested undisclosed sums into the portal.
"The target audience is already familiar with the brand. This allows us to maximise the reach of content and marketing arms, thus controlling costs. In addition, by offering bundles offline with online services the customer is offered a chance to experiment with a new medium with only incremental costs and efforts," says Venkat.
The revenue streams include advertising, sponsorship and marketing of events, subscription revenues from print publications, fees from services offered online. Venkat says the Rs 5-crore revenue new entity will take couple of years to break even. "It is still at a revenue ramp-up stage and we hope to make profits in two years."
Cautious about revenue bifurcation between online and offline activities, Venkat hopes IPFonline will close with a revenue of Rs 5.5 crore this fiscal. With the annual number of Industrial Products Finder making revenue of around Rs 1 crore, the offline activity is the breadwinner for the company.
About the companys virtual trade fair a 3D virtual environment that was created for simulating the experiences of a real-time exposition Venkat says: "After the first show in 2000, many tradeshow organisers did get in touch with us for eliciting such services for future shows. The same has not been translated into a more broad-based service due to the organisers perceived inhibitions vis--vis the costs for the same. Also, the current bandwidth availability and technology requirement for viewing the virtual trade fair was another significant speed-breaker for this novel concept."
"In lieu of this," he says, "we have revised the expo into a new section called e-focus. The section focuses on specific industrial products from time to time. Currently, this section features a focus on pumps and valves, and has 49 exhibitors."