Hewlett Packard VP talks e-commerce at Northwestern

Emily Chin, Social Media Editor

Senior Vice President at Hewlett Packard Alex Kazim thinks all businesses should ask the question, “What inefficiency are you actually trying to solve?”

Kazim presented this question to more than 20 people at The Garage on Thursday afternoon during a visit to Northwestern. Drawing on his role in e-commerce, which is the trend toward online shopping, he spoke about factors that are driving the industry. He also pointed to the necessity of a physical store.

“As much as (e-commerce) is happening, you’re still seeing online retailers opening up physical stores,” he said. “There are still people who still want to go in and try on and get that real experience.”

Kazim’s visit was part of an e@nu Speaker Series, which is put on by the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The e@nu program had initially been a one-day conference, until the Farley Center turned it into a speaker series last year. Kazim is the second speaker e@nu has hosted this quarter.

The Farley Center chose Kazim to give his presentation because his perspective on e-commerce is relevant to the NUvention: Web + Media class that will be offered next quarter and Spring Quarter, said Caitlin Smith, associate director for the Farley Center.

Kazim’s visit was also timely given Hewlett Packard’s recent development in business. Hewlett Packard Enterprise, launched earlier this month by Hewlett Packard, aims to help business partners grow sales and reduce costs.

“Alex has an impressive career in e-commerce given everywhere he’s worked,” Smith said. “His perspective on e-commerce is really relevant.”

Before working at Hewlett Packard, Kazim held prominent roles at eBay, PayPal and Skype. He first got into e-commerce when he managed eBay’s software engineering team.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to work with amazing brands,” he told The Daily. “With every one, you learn so much because it’s a new industry, a new model, a new culture. It keeps us interested in what’s going to happen next.”

Despite the rapid growth of e-commerce, Kazim argues that it is still in the early stages. He pointed out that only 10 percent of retail sales happen online, leaving room for startups to step in.

Kazim also noted that consumer’s desire to get goods immediately also feeds into the e-commerce business. With Amazon Prime and Amazon Prime Now, there is instant gratification at the click of a button. This is part of the reason for Amazon’s huge increase in sales in the past 10 years, he said.

Parikshit Lad (McCormick ‘15) attended Kazim’s talk to learn about the shared economy model and the on-demand economy.

“It’s the next big thing,” he said. “There are companies who give you on-demand services. There’s a lot of action happening in this field, and there’s so much potential.”

Kazim said he hopes people walked away from the discussion with an understanding of the potential of the e-commerce.

“It’s so amazing that it’s still less than 10 percent of retail sales, and it’s going to keep growing,” he told The Daily. “You’ll always see people coming up with different models to receive (goods). It’s going to be more and more important as it becomes more and more of a larger part of retail sales.”

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