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July 21, 1999
Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited will launch its electronic commerce services on August 15 for online payment of telephone bills below Rs 2,000 and for accepting new registration.
''MTNL's switching over to online payment of bills will come into effect whether the government implements cyber laws or not,'' assured Chairman and Managing Director S Rajagopalan. ''We have to start from somewhere, otherwise it will be too late.''
He was addressing a workshop on 'E-commerce for media' that was organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi today.
Rajagopalan said other areas of MTNL's e-commerce initiative would be co-branding of credit cards, payment of electricity and municipal taxes and virtual shopping malls.
MTNL will also set up 200 business centres in New Delhi that will be wired with optical fibres. These service cells will have the potential to transform operations of corporations by cutting down costs. The centres will have modern equipment and help corporations in slashing middle management layers by replacing it with computer systems, Rajagopalan promised. ''Some of the jobs being done by intermediaries also can be successfully replace through e-commerce,'' he believes.
Rajagopalan said the Internet would open up new opportunities for online financial services, electronic publishing and distance shopping.
He pointed out that advertisement revenues that can be realised through e-commerce are growing marginally over the years.
In the United States, $260 million were spent in the Internet media last year. This compares badly with $173 billion spent on all other conventional media for advertising, he said.
Chief Vigilance Commissioner N Vittal, who inaugurated the workshop, said the Internet is bringing a new and rapid dimension to normal business of communication between parties doing a transaction. This, in turn, he said, raises new legal issues relating to the control of money supply.
Vittal listed the six Cs of e-commerce as computers, connectivity, content, costs, cyber laws and common sense.
He called for adopting a bold strategy for the next 10 years so that e-commerce is not taxed. "This will help people in migrating from physical mode to the Net mode," he said.
''By the simple method of treating cyberspace as a tax-free space, at least for a decade, India can position itself better to thrive in the emerging e-commerce world,'' Vittal said.
Meanwhile, Haridas Raigaga, senior auditor at Ernst and Young, said apart from evolving new laws, there is a need for making amendments in various statutes including the Indian Evidence Act 1872, the Indian Penal Code 1860, the General Clauses Act 1897, the Reserve Bank of India Act 1934 and the Bankers Book of Evidence Act 1891.
This should be followed by a notification regarding regulations for electronic fund transfer, he said.
Others who spoke on the occasion include N Parmeswaran, deputy director general in charge of legal affairs at the Department of Telecommunications, Arunesh Sharan, senior consultant with IBM India, Niraj Gupta, director for Flag Telecom's South Asia region and Vishnu Arya, vice-president of the Internet Service Providers Association.
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