The telecommunications industry has been dragged through the dirt lately, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for smart entrepreneurs to make waves. And the area to look at is wireless. While on the surface the wireless arena appears to be dominated by jumbo-size enterprises, a lot of the innovation and nuts-and-bolts work is provided by growing businesses and start-ups.
Anjan Ghosal, 39, founder and CEO of Melbourne, Florida-based IntelliNet Technologies , describes his business as building the software plumbing that goes into making wireless services work. Ghosal knows a lot about innovation and keeping his 50 employee company competitive in a tight market. IntelliNet recently came out with technology that allows users to seamlessly roam from cellular connections to Wi-Fi wireless LAN connections without data interruption.
One area attracting entrepreneurs is the wireless hot-spot market, but Ghosal cautions against betting your future on this. "The key challenge in that space is that people are still trying to figure out the business model. Service providers really haven't figured out how to make money out of it." He points to prepaid wireless services and location-based technologies like e911 as two areas that are in solid growth modes. Businesses that can add value and offer desirable services or applications in those areas will be primed to do well in 2004.
Another area with developing potential is home electronics networking. Consumers and home offices have heaps of electronic equipment spread across their property that could benefit by communicating wirelessly, and it's going to take hardware and software to bring it all together.
With all the excitement around wireless networking, don't overlook the continued growth in cellular. Research group In-Stat/MDR predicts there will be 2 billion mobile subscribers worldwide by 2007. Those users will be looking for ring tones, downloadable games, data services and business applications. That all adds up to spell "opportunity" for entrepreneurs. -A.C.K.
- Palowireless - This Web site is a portal for wireless technologies covering tutorials, market research, news, events and more.
- Telecomweb - This Web site is for wireless communications professionals and offers news, analysis, reports and more.
Technology continues to make outsourcing an attractive solution for cost-conscious companies. The finance and accounting outsourcing market alone is expected to generate $37.7 billion worldwide by 2004, according to research firm Gartner Inc. Some estimates price the global outsourcing market at $300 billion annually.
"This is the globalization of the IT industry," says Stephen Lane, research vice president of IT services at market analysis firm Aberdeen Group in Boston. "Outsourcing is really hot right now."
So hot that the U.S. government is opening 850,000 jobs to outsourcing and says $85 billion in federal IT contracts will be awarded over the next three years. International outsourcing, meanwhile, is controversial-and growing: 3.3 million U.S. jobs ($136 billion in wages) will move offshore by 2015, according to technology research firm Forrester Research Inc.
So what are the hot areas for 2004? Outsourcing of business processes such as HR and accounting will remain popular, as will network security. There's also room for small firms that can help companies figure out what to outsource and how to manage their off-shore projects.
"We've consistently grown and made money every year," says Gurvendra Suri, 40, founder and CEO of Optimal Solutions Integration Inc., an 8-year-old enterprise technology consulting firm in Irving, Texas, with 130 employees. The company is going global: It already employs 30 people in Bangalore, India. Sales in 2002 were $22.2 million, and Suri estimates 25 percent sales growth in 2003. With a growing number of global projects starting to pay off, Suri says, "We should have 50 percent or more [growth] in 2004."
Outsourcing firms are shifting to contracts with fewer fixed costs for customers seeking greater flexibility. "You pay for what you use," Lane says. "That's one of the value propositions [outsourcers] are putting in front of their customers." -C.P.
- The Outsourcing Institute - The only global professional association dedicated solely to outsourcing, this site requires a free membership in order to access the site's information, services and solutions.
- Sourcing Interests Group - This Web site offers free reports and newsletters (guest membership may be required) regarding all things outsourcing.
Hot Biz:Senior Care
Managing the care of children and aging parents is becoming increasingly common for many adults. According to Steve Barlam, president of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers , which assists older people and their families with long-term care arrangements, 60 percent of those seeking a care manager's services are managing their parents' care from a distance, while the remainder live nearby but don't have time to handle all the arrangements. In other cases, there's a conflict between family members, and an objective third party is needed. This translates into a growing need for products and services to help this "sandwich generation." These can range from providing senior day-care centers to in-home care services, companionship and even in-home beauty services.
"The personal training industry [for seniors] is going to be hot," adds Barlam. One-on-one fitness training that keeps seniors active and healthy will be popular with both seniors themselves and their adult children. Electronic devices and smart appliances that can send information to adult children will also be in demand (Intel Corp. and General Electric Co. are developing them now).
Products and services offered must be affordable, and in the case of day-care centers, tailored to the needs of those attending, with medical attention available to those who are suffering from dementia or who are disabled, and social stimulation for those who are still healthy and mobile. Products can be marketed both to adult children and to seniors who are managing their own care.
Greg Gunderson started Manhattan Beach, California-based Gentle Transitions in 1994 to help seniors plan and execute a move into senior communities or smaller homes. He helps with everything from downsizing possessions to doing the packing-and unpacking. His sales reached $700,000 this year. "By the end of the day on moving day, a client walks into their home, and it looks like the place they've been for the last 30 years," says Gunderson, 43. "It really helps in their adjustment to a brand-new place." -Gisela M. Pedroza
- ElderJobs.com - This is an online job-listing site exclusively for the elder care, geriatric, and senior housing industry.
- The AgeNet Eldercare Network - This site matches connects eldercare businesses with industry suppliers and service providers.
- American Health Care Association - This non-profit federation for elderly and disabled individuals works to ensure the quality of long-term care through education and advocacy.
- The National Center for Assisted Living - NCAL aims to ensure quality and access to assisted living services.