The new unit will be comprised of 1,000 information technology (IT) consultants, the European computer services firm said in a statement.
Cap Gemini said the business unit will focus exclusively on e-commerce projects and will be headed by senior executives Michael Standing and Laurent Sibille.
Bob Scott, director of marketing of the e-business group for Cap Gemini, said that while the company has been doing a lot of e-business projects, it has been lacking in its branding and market visibility as a serious Internet player.
"The work we [typically] do, unlike [Net services firms] USWeb or Razorfish, is related to middle or back office integration with the front office, which really is not as sexy as the stuff USWeb and Razorfish do," said Scott. Cap Gemini created the new global e-business unit, he said, in order to garner more projects handling the front end of a company's business, including Web site strategy and building as well as the design and implementation of a Web site and related applications.
Today's announcement comes at a time when most of the large, traditional services and consulting firms have been stepping up efforts to focus on the Internet and e-commerce business. Such firms include services giants EDS and CSC as well as Big Five consulting firms Andersen and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
This evident shift is occurring as the old-timers begin to feel pressure from smaller, more nimble Internet consulting players, such as Viant, Razorfish, Scient and others.
In October, New York-based PricewaterhouseCoopers said it would cut 1,000 jobs as part of its plan to shift its focus to e-commerce consulting. At the time, a spokesman for the firm said the decision for the job cuts would free them up to "make the kind of strategic acquisitions that will enable us to provide our clients a broader range of professional services with a focus on e-commerce."
In recent months, several of the larger firms, including EDS, Andersen and Ernst & Young, have launched hefty ad campaigns to gain awareness for their new e-commerce focus.
Cap Gemini also said it plans to build e-business incubator operations in the United States, Europe and South East Asia in order to support the new global unit.
For over 3 years, Scott said the company has been heavily involved in making sure its consultants and employees were up to speed on the Internet and newer technologies through an internal training program it set up called iW@ve.
Paris-based Cap Gemini, a $5 billion company, said it plans to launch the new online business unit on Jan. 3 with intentions to expand the unit's employee base to 2,000 by the end of next year.
Earlier this week, the company confirmed it's in discussions with Ernst & Young to buy the firm's consulting business. If a deal is completed, "the combination of the two entities would create a world leader with more than $8.5 billion in revenues," New York-based Ernst & Young said in a prepared statement.