Is e-business inevitable?

It was announced last month that Boo.com, one of the worst dot-com failures, may become the subject of a blockbuster Hollywood movie.

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By  Mark Sutton Published  September 14, 2001

It was announced last month that Boo.com, one of the worst dot-com failures, may become the subject of a blockbuster Hollywood movie.

Boo.com, an online sports clothing retailer, managed to blow $100 million of funding in one of the worst excesses seen n any company of the dot-com era.

Founded by an ex-Vogue model and a former poetry critic, Boo spent over $30 million on a series of TV adverts, and an untold amount on parties, luxury offices in 18 cities worldwide, flights on Concorde and a private army of 40 Nepalese Gurkha body guards to protect the high profile executives from kidnapping.

The chief financial officer was so horrified by the spending behaviour of the founders that he bailed out after just two months. The company finally folded, costing 300 jobs. When the liquidators finally managed to sell off Boo’s technology, they made just $170,000.

Now the founders have written a book about their experiences, and reports are claiming that the film rights alone could make them a six-figure sum-already Ed Norton and Cameron Diaz are tipped to star. Not that writing a book has been the sole source of income for the hapless dot-com entrepreneurs-they have been busy with after-dinner speaking agreements, telling investment bankers all about the pitfalls of investing in a dot-com.

The Boo story is not the only film about dot-coms in the pipeline however-and there are several books on the subject already. Given all the negative publicity, it is not surprising that there are warnings that the Middle East might be shying away from e-business. Ayman Safadi, senior manager with Accenture warned companies recently that they needed to learn from the warnings from the west. He says that there are too many people taking ‘e-fatigue’ in the US and Europe as a sign that e-business does not work.

Companies have invested in the wrong technology, or not deployed what they have properly, and then abandoned their systems. Even ITP’s own Arabian Business.com magazine has quietly dropped its dot-com tag.

So is e-business dead in the Middle East? Safadi points out that when it works, companies can save billions by changing the way they address their customers, by using the Internet to improve communications. Maybe the most telling sign comes from Seven Seas Computers of Dubai. The company has restructured its high-volume, low-margin business, to deploy e-solutions to streamline its low-end PC business.

The company has had a website, complete with payment gateway, for two years, says general manager Mark Richards, only now it will be putting much greater emphasis on it.

Three years ago, the mantra of ‘e-business or out of business’ was dominant. Six months ago, e-business was out of business. Are we now at a stage where regardless of enthusiasm for e-business, business necessity is back in the driving seat?

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