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Asian Sky Shop targets Net-shoppers next 

Anamika Rath  
Mumbai, Oct 4: After television, Asian Sky Shop (ASK) is now looking at the Internet for selling its products. The company is in the process of launching a new Website called www.asianskyshop.com in the next one month.

It will be a separate profit centre within the organisation having its own customer service, sourcing, marketing, operations and content development team. The new Website will house all the Sky Shop products that include home appliances, fitness equipment and a host of other categories such as toys/games and healthcare equipment in the price range of Rs 250 to Rs 10,000.

The products will be made available to the customer against payment by credit card. ASK will also offer the option of cash-on-delivery in select towns and cities. Besides, offline modes like demand drafts, cheques and money order would also be accepted.

To ensure that credit card information does not go into the wrong hands, ASK will host its site on a secure-socket-layer (SSL) enabled server with Exodus, one of the top hosting companies in the world, which would enable the information to be encrypted before reaching the company.

Says ASK's head of information technology who is incharge of the e-commerce project, Ranjit Satyanath: ``We already have the technology for online card validation but we are waiting for the RBI regulations to be enforced. Once through, the process of validation will happen in a totally secure environment, so much so that even we will not have access to customer's credit card number.''

At present, offline validation with the acquiring bank (in this case Hongkong Bank) will be done by trusted employees only. The company is also installing dedicated fax machines to accept credit card information by fax.

Asian Sky Shop's Website is being developed by Web technologists Planetasia.com. The company is investing in internal process re-engineering and is also in the process of building an extranet to aid information flow with its partners in real time. Hitherto, ASK was communicating with both suppliers and franchisees through e-mail. It has a network of 55 franchisees across the country who will aid in free home delivery and after-sales service for the consumers on the Net--along with supplying television-led orders.

It is to be noted that ASK, a member of the Essel Group of companies has been marketing more than 250 products on television since 1995 when it was first set up to let small-time manufacturers (95 per cent of whom were Indian manufacturers) get together and sell through a common medium--television.

The company has warehousing facilities in Mumbai, Delhi, Pondicherry, Lucknow and Calcutta, which will enable quick delivery. ASK has also tied up with a courier company to offer delivery-on-time for the purpose of Internet selling. To start with, the buying on the Net would be limited to India. In the next six months it would be extended to other countries like Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. ASK will not discount its products on the Net. However, customers can expect to get products like books and music CDs much cheaper than the market rates. Customers can expect loyalty points, off season discounts, free gifts, contests etc while buying on the Net.

The company is expecting Rs 30,000 worth orders per day. On television it receives orders worth Rs 4 lakh per day. With each order, the costs incurred by the company would be procurement costs, warehousing, insurance, sales tax, card validation and freight costs.

As regards future plans for the site, it is readying itself for an auction site on the lines of ebay.com for India. ASK also plans to have special products for NRIs in Europe, USA and Africa. Within a span of two years, it intends becoming the largest Indian shopping portal.

Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

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