The slide in the US high-tech stockmarket is unlikely to affect businesses’ enthusiasm for and confidence in taking on e-commerce developments, says Jeff Lewis, CEO of multinational Web development company Zivo. One of Zivo's component parts is the old Clearview Communications.
“It will affect confidence in pure dot-com plays,” says Lewis. But people will recognise that companies like Zivo and its parent, media company Liberty One, are based on real assets, making real money and well cashed up,” he says.
Liberty One’s stock was affected as badly as others, sliding from over $1 to 45 cents – which makes the company’s employee stock options look a good deal less of a bonus, he says.
But business will continue booming, Lewis says, on the back of countries and industry sectors that are at the start of a rise in willingness to start e-commerce development.
One such functional area is e-government, which will experience a surge of interest from governments in the near future – and a surge long overdue, he says. “It seems ridiculous that you can do your banking on the Internet and shop for everything from books to groceries online, but the one place you still have to front up at a physical location and fill in a paper form is at a government agency.”
On the geographical front, Japan, for example, has hitherto been markedly conservative on the e-commerce front, a hesitancy exacerbated by the rough ride its economy has recently had. But Japanese companies are latching on to e-commerce, and as the economy comes back, the engines will start to fire. “Then, it’s forecast in about 2002, Japan will account for half the online advertising in the Asia-Pacific region."
Zivo plans to found an office in Tokyo in the near future, by Liberty One’s takeover of a local company, as it has already done in New Zealand – with Liberty’s acquisition of Clearview last August – in Australia and Hong Kong.
A Seoul base is also in the company’s sights.
The five companies in the e-commerce and closely related areas already taken over by Liberty One have now all been combined under the common banner of Zivo, so the name Clearview, among others, will finally disappear.
The other companies acquired are: Netpower, based in Hong Kong, IRG (Australia) and Xiba (Australia and South-East Asia).
Zivo has been reorganising the offices of each company to offer the full range of e-business activities the combined company is now responsible for – from Web-design and integration of the Web site into a customer’s business to application service provision, Web hosting and “closed-loop marketing” plans. These involve soliciting information from visitors to the Web site, initiating a communication with an offer of, for instance, a free sample of the merchandise, and measuring the effectiveness of the marketing with follow-up surveys.
Most of the new Zivo companies, including Clearview, have not been involved in closed loop marketing before, and the company is intent on building a consistent image of itself throughout the region.
In practice, many specialist areas of endeavour will be directed to those national operations that have particular strengths there. New Zealand, for example, will house the company’s quality assurance and testing laboratory for new software.
Zivo is now putting in place a common framework of management and services; some of which were unknown to the individual companies. “Some haven’t had a PR department, or even a marketing department before.”
These previous holes and the continued demand for good people in e-commerce and related areas should mean the combining of the companies will involve no redundancies, he says.
Takeover of a local business with an existing revenue stream and customer contacts is, Lewis says, much the preferable course for spreading internationally. “I don’t agree with the approach of putting in 10 expatriates and starting the company from scratch.” It’s more costly than the takeover approach, and the latter also has the merit of having local staff involved from the beginning in their own market.
The biggest problem in the industry today is not finding the work, but in finding the good quality staff to do it, and retaining their services.
“I could employ 10 times the number of people we have here now and still find enough work for them to do.”