Call it by whatever name: Green Energy /Sustainable Solutions /Cleantech /Alternative Energy /etc. The quest for environment friendly, cheap and renewable energy is probably the most important technology problems of the 21st century.
Various options are being under development for a few decades but still all of these put together constitute a small percentage (in most countries – single digit) of total energy consumption. These options include: Wind, Bio-Fuels, Solar Photo-Voltaics, Solar-Thermal, Geo-Thermal, Tidal Power, etc. The only renewable energy form that has been used effectively(in non-trivial amounts) is hydel power.
In this brief blog, I am attempting to capture a list of interesting companies and R&D organizations in Pune that are involved in these fields. Would appreciate any inputs (and details) on companies/organizations that you are aware of, and that are not listed in here. Please add them as comments, and I will consolidate them into this blog post.
National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) is the premier research institution in India (and one of the top ones globally), involved in R&D in chemistry and chemical engineering. Their work includes research on bio-fuels, associated enzymes, etc.
Last year, we had run a quiz on copyrights and patents, consisting of a number of day-to-day examples where copyright or patent issues were involved. These were examples of the kind that an average PuneTech reader might run into. Interestingly, a very large fraction of those who took the quiz, got lots of answers wrong. The quiz was a big hit amongst our readers.
Unfortunately, we overlooked posting the results of the quiz.
Question: Unmesh has a great idea for an online flash game where the user is supposed to identify and shoot traffic violators. He describes the idea in great detail in an email to Navin. The email includes overall architecture, algorithms and data-structures etc. Navin loves the idea, and next day, implements the idea in python+django and puts it up on http://ShootTheTrafficViolators.com. Surprisingly, the game is a huge hit. One year later, Zapak buys the game from Navin for a large sum of money (one khoka). Navin has no intention of sharing his khoka with Unmesh. There was no agreement, neither explicit nor implicit, between Navin & Unmesh regarding the intellectual property. Legally, which of these are true? (Assume that the email between Unmesh and Navin is enough to legally prove that Navin got the idea from Unmesh.)
Answer: There’s nothing Unmesh can do. Ideas cannot be copyrighted. Zapak bought the copyrights, and those are owned by Navin since he wrote the code. (Unmesh would have a case if he had patented any idea in that game, but really, there is nothing patentable about shooting traffic violators 🙂
56% of respondents got this wrong and felt that Unmesh can claim some money from either Navin or Zapak.
Question: Unmesh has another great idea – a map-based online dating service. He describes his idea in a blog post, and also attaches a zip file with the php code for the game. An year later, Navin notices this blog post, downloads the software, makes some changes, and puts it up on http://AatiKyaKhandala.com. Needless to say, BharatMatrimony is interested and pays Navin 1 khoka for the game. Which of the following is true. (As before, no agreement between Navin & Unmesh. Also, Unmesh did not attach a copyright notice in the code; nor did he register a copyright.)
Answer: Making code public does not change the fact that Unmesh owns the copyright to the code. The fact that Unmesh neither attached a copyright notice, nor did he register the copyright is irrelevant. Copyright notices and registrations are not necessary. Unmesh is legally the owner. Note also, that Navin can rewrite the program to do the same thing but using different code wrote and Unmesh would have no intellectual property claims on the new program Navin wrote.
Lot of ignorance here. A whopping 45% of the respondents felt that Unmesh had no claim on the code because he did not attach a copyright notice, and 34% felt that he had no claim because he made the code public.
Question: Navin is now a very successful and rich entrepreneur, based on the previous two exits. He now pays Unmesh to develop a new website for him – http://PhirangiMaal.com – to identify the best foreign goods available in Pune. Unmesh writes the code and in the process develops a very innovative new algorithm for automatically identifying good phirangi maal. Needless to say, this algorithm and site is a great success. eBay.in is interested. Which of the following are true. This time there was an agreement between Navin and Unmesh saying that Unmesh is developing PhirangiMaal.com for Navin for a given sum of money. Unfortunately, the agreement doesn’t say who owns the intellectual property.
Answer: In the absence of an explicit agreement, Navin owns the intellectual property because this was work done for hire. Interestingly, most people got this one right.
Question: Unmesh wrote a great program – a mobile application that can cause a mobile phone to self-destruct when it is taken outside the borders of Maharashtra. Unfortunately, he did not show the program to anybody, he did not register a copyright on it, and he did not make it public. One day, Navin happened to get access to Unmesh’s laptop, copied the program and later sold it to Raj Thakarey. Does Unmesh own the copyright on this program?
Answer: Yes, Unmesh owns the copyright. Copyright registration, copyright notice, and making public have no effect on copyright ownership. As soon as a creative work is created, the author gets the copyright. While Unmesh might have a tough time proving that Navin stole the code from him (and that is the reason why copyright registration has value), legally the ownership is clearly with Unmesh.
57% of respondents got this one wrong (most of them thinking that copyright registration is necessary).
Question: To increase traffic to his site Unmesh wants to put up a collage of beautiful/handsome people at the top of his homepage. He downloads a bunch of images from images.google.com, crops them appropriately, and creates a collage, and puts it up. Unfortunately, one of the images belongs to Reuters, who sues Unmesh for $2000 (for just that one image).
Answer: Most people got this correct. Downloading images off the web and using them on your website is a copyright violation, and the above has actually happened to a Pune startup (no, not Unmesh!!). It is worthwhile to note that you are legally liable even if you outsourced the website development to some other small company, and their designer was the one who downloaded the image and used it without checking the copyright notice.
Question: Rohit11 decides to manufacture a home security system, which is a hardware box that can be installed on people’s doors. The device runs software that is derived from the Linux OS. Since he has a large heart, Rohit11 gives this device away for free for everyone in Pune. Is he required to release the software (since Linux is GPLed)?
Answer: The correct answer is that the software must be released. It can be put up on a website – shipping with the device is not a requirement. However, shipping a 400-page book is not good enough. The software must be in machine readable form.
Question: Unmesh decides to open-source the code that runs SadakMap.com (under GPL). Navin takes that code, makes extensive changes to it to allow people to interact with the maps using SMS. He then uses the code to create http://SMSMaps.in. Now Unmesh wants to add the same facilities to sadakmap. Can Unmesh force Navin to open-source SMSMaps.in?
Answer: No! Since Navin has not “distributed” the code to anybody else, he is not forced to give out his source code by the GPL. The new Affero GPL covers this case, but a regular GPL does not. 51% got this wrong.
Question: Navin keeps taking content from Unmesh’s blog (http://sadakmap.com/blog) and republishing it on PuneTech – sometimes excerpts, sometimes full – sometimes with attribution, sometimes without. All of this is done without Unmesh’s permission. Which of the following are copyright violations:
Question: Publishing excerpts (e.g. a few lines from first paragraph), with a link to the original post
Answer: This is not a copyright violation. This is allowed under fair use (also known as fair dealing). Most people got this right.
Question: Publishing excerpts, with attribution to SadakMap, but not a link
Answer: This is legally not a violation of copyright law. But is a bad practice and is frowned upon, so you should avoid it.
Question: Publishing full article, with full attribution of source and a link to original
Answer: This is a copyright violation. Publishing a full article is not legal, irrespective of whether you link/attribute the source. 50% of respondents got this wrong.
Question: Re-use of just one image from a post, with attribution + link
Answer: This is a copyright violation. Unlike short excerpts of text (which are OK to copy), copying images, or even short excerpts of music are usually violations. Only 40% of respondents got this correct.
Question: Reuse of 20 seconds of a sound-clip from a post, with attribution+link
Answer: This is a copyright violation. You’re not allowed to copy even short clips of music. Only 29% got this right.
Question: Copying the SadakMap Logo
Answer: Thankfully, most people got this right. Copying the logo is a copyright violation except for a few exceptions (like satire, or new reporting, etc.)
Answers to Part 2: Patents
Question: Unmesh has a great idea for an online flash game where the user is supposed to identify and shoot traffic violators. He describes the idea in great detail in an email to Navin. The email includes overall architecture, algorithms and data-structures etc. But before that Unmesh files a patent on it. Navin loves the idea, and next day, implements the idea in python+django and puts it up on http://ShootTheTrafficViolators.com. Surprisingly, the game is a huge hit. One year later, Zapak buys the game from Navin for a large sum of money (one khoka). At this point, Unmesh’s patent is granted. There was no agreement, neither explicit nor implicit, between Navin & Unmesh regarding the intellectual property. Legally, which of these are true? (Note: this question is slightly different from the first question in the copyright section)
Answer: Unmesh owns the patent and hence he can legally stop Zapak from selling the game, he can legally claim money and/or royalties from Zapak or Navin. Most people got this one right.
Question: Navin works for reputed IT firm as high performance database architect. While on a trekking trip with his friends on Sunday, he conceives an idea of a new trekking shoe. Next Sunday he takes help of his friend Hemant who has knowhow of patents to file a patent on his new shoe. Later Navin leaves the IT job and toils to finally productize his shoe. Around the same time Navin’s patent on the shoe also gets granted. Few days after that the IT firm where Navin worked before becomes aware of popularity of the new trekking shoe and Navin’s patent on it. The IT firm asks Navin to transfer his patent rights on the shoe design to the IT firm.
Answer: The real answer is that it depends upon the employment contract that Navin has with the IT firm. In most of the large companies that I know of (also known as reputed IT companies), the employment contract states that all ideas that the employees get while they are employed belong to the company.
People often feel that work done in personal time, work unrelated to company business etc. are exempt, but it is not. Often entrepreneurs develop ideas while being employed before breaking up, but do not realize that they are at risk of assertion of employment agreement.
Startup founders get into trouble like this very often.
Question: Navin is settled in U.S. He comes up with an idea for software module which runs on standard PCs to increase the speed of execution. Navin files a patent on it in U.S. and gets the patent. Hemant lives in India and gets to read Navin’s patent as patent documents are publicly available on the Internet. Hemant assembles a team of programmers in India to build the software module described in Navin’s patent. Hemant then sells it to Indian PC distributors who then install it on PCs sold in India.
Answer: There is nothing Navin can do. US patents do not afford any protection against companies copying and selling the product in India. Many people got this wrong – 37% felt that Navin can take legal help in India to stop Hemant, and 33% felt that Navin can take legal help in the US to stop Hemant. Both answers are incorrect.
Question: Unmesh decides to open-source the code that runs SadakMap.com. Navin uses that code to create http://SMSMaps.in. While looking at the SadakMap code, and searching the online patent database, Navin realizes that Unmesh has a patent on a unique new algorithm of allowing users to add content to a online map – and this algorithm is at the heart of the SadakMap code. Navin realizes a unique new way to design a wrapper around the SadakMap code to allow users to add content via SMS. Navin files a patent on this idea, and the patent is granted.
Answer: Unmesh can still stop Navin from running SMSMaps.in because it is still infringing on Unmesh’s patent. The fact that Navin has his own patent doesn’t change the fact that SMSMaps.in uses Unmesh’s invention too. (Note: Navin would be granted this patent, but neither Navin nor anyone else would be able to use Navin’s invention without also getting permission from Unmesh to use his invention.)
Question: Hemant has worked for several years to build a software application that he now wants to sell on his website. Unfortunately, a friend points out that his software uses an algorithm that is patented by DadaGiri Software Pvt. Ltd. DadaGiri Software is known to be litigious and is likely to sue Hemant for infringement. What can Hemant do?
Investigate the possibility of getting that patent declared invalid by the courts
Analyze the patent claims, and check if it’s possible to re-design the application so that it doesn’t infringe the patent
Hemant is in ruins, since the patents granted are ‘brahmastras’
Explore the possibility of licensing the patent
Answer: All of the above are possibilities. It is quite possible that a patent that has been granted is not really valid, for any number of reasons, including existing prior art (i.e. this ‘invention’ had been publicly known before the patent was filed). Also, most of the time, it is possible to re-design a product so that it does not infringe existing patents.
Persistent Systems, one of Pune’s most well known companies, is finally going public. This is an occasion which many Punekars have been waiting for, and it makes the ‘success’ of Persistent official.
However, Persistent Systems, and its CEO Anand Deshpande, mean much more to the tech community. In the last 10 years, they have been a major force in shaping and helping the community find its feet and grow. To get a feel for the various ways in which Anand and Persistent have helped the tech community in Pune, we asked this question on forpune.com, the new question/answer site for Pune, and got a lot of good responses. Here are some excerpts
Startups founded by Persistent alumni: A friend who wished to remain anonymous has this to say:
Being a very “tech” driven company, many techies join Persistent. There, they are exposed to cutting edge startups that outsource work to Persistent. They are exposed to the latest startup ideas, and they get a chance to interact with entrepreneurs, CEO’s, Business Managers and Engineers based in silicon valley. This helps build an entrepreneurial outlook.
In addition, Persistent has also encouraged marrying corporate entrepreneurship with hitech ideas. Employees are encouraged to take time out time to shape Product ideas that later revealed valuable IP for Persistent. This practice continues to be refined and shaped.
As a result of this, the Persistent alumni network regularly reveals several entrepreneurs chasing hitech dreams and this trend has only grown with the company. Through it’s alumni, Persistent has created a whole generation of entrepreneurs who might one day just enable Pune to figure prominently on the tech-innovation map alongside the valley.
It’s amazing – Anand and Persistent have touched many lives. He finds time for all! He mentored and supported us in our start-up attempt, with advice that still lives in my mind. He’s a great role model.
The same is true for PuneTech. We regularly meet Anand and he has lots of suggestions, pointers for us and introduces us to people who could help us. In fact, part of the reason why PuneTech was founded can be traced back to Anand. A few years ago, when I used to simply working in a big company and did not take any interest in the tech community around me, Anand was responsible for pulling me into the CSI Pune managing committee. That got me thinking about what the tech community in Pune needs, and that finally culminated in the founding of PuneTech
Supporting tech initiatives and organizations in Pune: Be it CSI Pune, or SEAP, or the office of CIO of Pune City, Persistent and Anand have had a hand in it, or at least played a major supporting role. Often, Persistent regularly provides ‘resources’ in the form of developers, or expert advice, to government institutions that are looking to modernize and go digital.Amit Kumar Singh points out that he was able to organize the first PHPCamp thanks to the support of Persistent. That attracted over a 1000 PHP developers to Pune, and was arguably one of the biggest unconferences in India. PHPCamp has now become an yearly activity, and has also spawned the very popular phpcamp.net website.
The Dewang Mehta auditorium: This auditorium is easily one of the most sought after places for tech events in the city. it has world class facilities, a perfect center-of-the-city location, and in addition, Persistent is always willing to give the auditorium, for free, to anybody willing to hold a tech event in the city.The number of great events that have happened there (including proto.in, Innovationsetc.) is just too long to list out.
Encouragement for returning technologists: Almost any senior technology professional who has considered returning to Pune/India in the last 10 years (myself included) has probably ended up meeting Anand, and gotten the “Pune” pitch – as to why they should return. One of the primary fears, that they might not find anything interesting to work on after returning to India, is quickly allayed by Anand as he talks about all the interesting work that could be done while sitting in Persistent. Many of these people don’t necessarily join Persistent, but they do end up returning, because the picture Anand paints is better than what they had earlier imagined.
To increase the opportunities available to poor minority students the Ministry of Minority Affairs of the Government of India has started a new initiative to offer job oriented training programmes through various institutes throughout India. Pune’s C-DAC, one of the premiere Government institutes for R&D in the information technology sector, will provide this training via their C-DAC ACTS (Advanced Computing Training School) center in Aundh, Pune.
ACTS is C-DAC’s existing insitute that provides IT training to graduate students. Here is an overview of ACTS from their website:
C-DAC Advanced Computing Training School (ACTS) was set up in 1993 to impart quality training in high-end technologies to existing and prospective users of advanced computing. Over the last sixteen years, the activities of ACTS have extended nationally through a network of more than 46 training centres spread across the country. C-DAC is committed to nation building through its Advanced Computing Training School (ACTS) and is the first Government Lab that has expanded its horizons globally, extending its high quality training services to countries like Mauritius, Ghana, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Myanmar,Tanzania, Dubai and Japan.
Now ACTS will start offering free training under this new scheme. The objectives of the scheme are to assist students belonging to the minority communities by way of special coaching for Coaching/training for jobs in the private sector such as in airlines, shipping, fisheries, information technology (IT), business process outsourcing (BPO) and other IT enabled services job oriented courses as per the emerging trend of employment in the private sector.
Update: At this meeting (which is now over), it was decided to form various sub-committees that will work on different aspects of TEDxPune. If you’re interested, please sign-up here.
A group of volunteers has been formed to put up a TEDx program in Pune later this year. And, since we would like to put up a world class show, we need the help of a lot of volunteers to be able to achieve this. Please join the TEDxPune mailing list and help out. There will be a kickoff meeting this Saturday, 27th February, from 5pm to 7pm at SICSR (the Symbiosis Institute of Computer Studies and Research, Model Colony. Map: http://sadakmap.com/p/SICSR). Please attend. Anyone who is enthusiastic enough can attend. It’s free.
What is TEDx?
This is a TED video of Sendhil Mullianathan talking about how we are unable to solve “simple” problems like diarrhoea, inspite of the fact that we “know” how to solve them. This is an example to give you an idea of what a TED talk is. Click here if you’re unable to see the embedded video. Another example is the famous “Sixth Sense” talk by Pranav Mistry (a must see, if you haven’t seen it)
TEDx is a local version of the TED program. You might have already heard of TED, or have seen someTEDvideos. TED is non-profit group that holds conferences all over the world with the single intention of spreading the most inspiring ideas to the widest audience. TED believes in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So TED is creating a repository of ideas, in the form of talks given by some of the world’s most original and insightful thinkes, and videos and transcripts of these talks are disseminated freely to anyone who is interested. The name TED stands for “Technology, Entertainment and Design,” but overtime, the idea has grown to encompass any idea that can (or should) change the world.
TEDx is any locally organized conference that follows the TED guidelines. A TEDx can be a half day or a full day event consisting of talks by various invited, carefully selected speakers. No talk can be over 18 minutes in length. The talks should be cross-disciplinary, and must go over a wide range of topics. And there should be nothing other than these talks. No panels, no break out sessions, nothing. Just talks, and discussions. And we would really like the talks to be mindblowing. Something that will spur the audience into action. Or fill them with wonder.
I am sure there are many, many such people in Pune. But we need your help in finding them. Some of the potential speakers are well known, established names. Like Jayant Narlikar; or Arvind Gupta. We will try to get people like those; but in addition, we would like to find young and upcoming not-so-well-known speakers who have the passion and new ideas that will inspire the next generation.
I want to estimate the number of innovative enterprises in India, and look into their (in)ability to access risk capital.
Why? Because I’d like to know how many Indian enterprises may offer higher returns than FDs, bonds, mutual funds & stocks. But with a lower risk than a VC funded startup.
Why? Because I believe it is possible to raise & deploy a large amount of risk capital to a large set of Indian companies. $1B+.
Why? Because 95%+ of innovative enterprises lack access to risk capital. And 95% of ‘rich’ Indians / NRIs lack access to private equity investments in India. That’s my hypothesis.
So what? Well, there’s a business model in here somewhere.
Definitions & Numbers
I’m mixing up the various terms used to describe relatively young & relatively small (by revenue) companies. These include: startups, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), Small Scale Industries (SSIs), new ventures, spin-offs, spin-outs, etc.
Per the 2006-07 census, there are over 26 million MSMEs in India. ~ 97% of these won’t show up in MCA statistics since they are unregistered or operate as sole proprietorships / partnerships.
A company is Micro, Small or Medium depending on the amount invested in plants & machinery. MSMEs employ ~ 60 million people (= 3 Mumbais) and contribute ~ 20% to India’s GDP.
Of these, over 98% are ‘Micro’ enterprises. The majority are ‘one-man shows’ that provide services to local markets with minimal investment. They use traditional techniques, have no formal management practices and lack access to bank credit.
The numbers are huge from a micro-finance perspective. But I’m looking for candidates for risk capital. Time to narrow down the potential market.
How many MSMEs have an innovative business model or technology, that is fairly scalable? Who knows! Let’s make a few random assumptions and pick numbers out of thin air. ‘Micro’ enterprises are less likely to be significantly innovative given their constraints. That leaves say ~ 0.5 million Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to choose from.
Ignore stuff like product vs. service, urban vs. rural, geography, etc.. Let’s assume that at least some % of these 5 lakh SMEs are innovative enough. To qualify, they should have products/services with some ‘edge’, which provides growth & profits. These SMEs were ‘Micro’ at birth, and since they are still around, they must be doing something right.
Maybe 2% of SMEs meet this criteria. That’s 10,000 innovative (and perhaps risk capital worthy) enterprises across India.
My assumption of 2% may be wildly off, but remember that I left out 25.5 million ‘Micro’ enterprises. If even a fraction of those get added to the ‘innovative’ pool, the 10K number suddenly looks small.
Risk Capital for Innovative (M)SMEs
Most MSMEs rely on family, friends & personal networks for funding. Only a select few have access to risk capital from angels, VCs, and certain schemes from government/banks. For example:
On average, < 100 Indian companies get VC funding every year.
On average, angels & angel networks (eg. Mumbai Angels) fund ~ 50 startups every year.
On average, government schemes for startups (eg. DSIR’s TePP, TDB seed funds) fund ~ 100 enterprises every year.
On average, ~ 50 companies get listed (via IPOs) on our stock exchanges every year. Of the ~ 2000 companies that traded publicly, 80%+ are quite illiquid.
On average, bank lending to MSMEs accounts for < 10% of total commercial lending. It’s usually in the form of secured, collateralized debt – not ‘risk’ capital. With personal guarantees from borrowers. And probably only to the ‘Medium’ enterprises.
By any measure, this is hugely insufficient in the context of my 10K estimate. And it gets worse:
The average VC deal size in India is ~ 20 crore. That puts the average pre-money valuation at 40 – 60 crore.
To stand a chance of an IPO on the NSE or BSE, a company must ideally have revenues of over 100 crore.
While governments & banks may be more open to smaller deals, they offer a different set of challenges – slower processes, risk-aversion, stringent spending terms & conditions, limited exposure to risk capital, etc.
SMEs need to invest 10 lakh – 5 crore in their businesses. In the Indian VC world, this would count as ‘seed funding’ or ‘early stage funding’. It is supposed to be followed by Series A, B, C, … on its way to a 100-1000 crore valuation. But not every SME is a glamourous, Silicon Valley style, tech startup. Not every SME is addressing a 1000 crore market. Or even a 100 crore market. So all this talk of ‘seed funding’ is irrelevant.
Bottom-line: There is a tremendous shortage of risk capital – in the 10 lakh to 5 crore range – for innovative (M)SMEs.
[Caveat: Then again, how many of these business owners are willing to part with equity?]
For the MBA/VC types, here is what the SAM (serviceable/sellable available market) looks like: 10K SMEs * say Rs 50 lakh per SME on average = Rs 5000 crore = $1B. Maybe much more!
Demand is not a problem. What about supply? Time for Essay #2.
This is an example of effective use of technology in public life in Pune. Sakaal Times reports that first-time corporator Rajendra Gorde, is using SMS to not only stay in touch with his constituents but also to provide them with useful information.
Rajabhau, as he is popularly known, has created a personal data-bank of nearly 80 percent of the electorate in his ward. Not only does he know people by name, where exactly they reside and the number of people in their families, but he also knows their birth dates, anniversaries and other important dates. Most importantly, he has the cellphone numbers of each of these people.
So, it is possible for him to send out personalised greetings, good wishes, condolences and other messages to each and every individual in his database. While this kind of SMSes help Rajabhau to establish a personal connect with his voters, what makes him stand out as a corporator are the public service and informational messaging that he sends out to hundreds of people every day.
For instance, he secured the names of all secondary and higher secondary students of municipal schools in the city who had secured 80 percent and above marks. It was a pleasant surprise for 83 such students when their parents received individual SMSes from Rajabhau informing them that they were eligible for grants of Rs 15,000 and Rs 25,000, respectively, under a PMC scheme for meritorious students.
And apparently, residents are finding this service useful.
The most popular messages are the ones informing people about water cuts and power shutdowns. It enables people to prepare for exigencies and not get caught unawares.
PuneTech readers will note that this is very similar to what SMSOne has been doing in over 500+ villages and urban localities in Maharashtra and a couple of other stages. Unlike Rajendra Gorde, who is using this “SMS newsletter” concept as part of public service, SMSOne has been running this as a for-profit business, and it appears to be doing rather well. SMSOne appears to have shown that this is indeed a sustainable business model.
Given the really low cost and low technology requirements for setting up an SMS Gateway, this idea is something that many others can and should implement. I see few “web-2.0” businesses/services that are using SMS as an add-on to their website/service. And I see fewer still who are fully SMS based ideas. But, considering that India probably has 50 million internet users, and 500 million SMS users, I think more and more people should be looking at SMS as a primary enabling technology.
India has about 7 million broadband subscribers, broadband, which by the way is defined in India at >=256Kbps: just about enough speed to let you experience the new, emerging Internet. The Indian Govt. had declared 2007 as the year of broadband, and a target of 9mn subs was set for the year. Even two years later, we are way behind! Just so you know, China has over 80 million broadband subscribers.
Why is a nation such as ours, IT superpower and aspiring global superpower, so poor when it comes to broadband penetration?
Very Poor Fixed Line Infrastructure
Most countries that have a high broadband penetration have (a) high wireline penetration, and / or (b) robust cable infrastructure. Simply speaking, if you do not have the basic infrastructure, you cannot provide a superior service such as broadband. Unfortunately for us, neither of these two conditions exist in India.
There are about 37 million fixed lines, of which only about 30% – about 10mn – are even capable of providing broadband. In recent years, there has been almost no investment in increasing and/or improving the quality of fixed line infrastructure. The country has added more than 400million wireless connections in the last 8 years, as against none in the fixed line space. While lack of focus on wireleine by the incumbents, BSNL and MTNL is an important factor, the blame must really be borne by the regulatory and policy regime which has not created an environment to encourage competition (and thereby, investment) in fixed line infrastructure / services in the country. The TRAI had recommended unbundling of the local loop as a step towards limited competition, but as has now almost become a norm, the TRAI recommendations were not accepted by the DoT.
Less said the better about cable infrastructure. It is a highly fragile and completely unregulated cobweb of many thousands of independent networks. It will take an investment of at least Rs 200 billion to upgrade the cable last mile to make it 2-way and broadband capable. Nobody, it appears, is willing to take that challenge up.
No Encouragement to Competition
It is well-recognized that the mobile revolution in India has been driven primarily by competition: at least 6-7 operators across the country. Private operators were licensed years before the incumbents were allowed to enter the mobile market; several steps have been taken towards creating a level playing field for all the licensed mobile operators. On the other hand, in broadband, there is absolutely no policy measure to encourage private operators to enter and compete; this in spite of the fact that none of them have any last mile infrastructure to speak of, and therefore, require considerable support in the initial years.
The incumbents that are riding on public-funded fixed line infrastructure have – in almost a predatory manner – dropped tariffs so much that India has, at the same time, the lowest broadband ARPU and the poorest broadband penetration in the world! Wireless broadband (read 3G & WiMax) is generally expected to become the competitive alternative – but there has simply been no urgency in creating the policy environment to encourage wireless. Spectrum â the essential ingredient to rolling out wireless networks â has not been made available for Broadband; the proposed spectrum auctions have been postponed several times in the last 2 years.
Can something be done to salvage the situation?
Unfortunately, in the short term, I see no option for the customers and private operators. During 2010, the incumbents will strengthen their dominance in the broadband market (for whatever it is worth); private operators will half-heartedly roll out parallel copper / cable networks and will be plagued with quality issues. If spectrum auctions happen in Jan-Feb 2010 as currently envisaged, 3G and WiMax services should become available in most metros towards the second half of the year.
The Broadband market will have to wait till 2011 for true competition, high quality and innovative services – available in all major towns and cities. But the rest of the world will not stay still. Singapore is experimenting with getting 100Mbps to every home by 2012; we hope to get to about 1Mbps in the top 100 towns by then.
Every year, since 2005, I have been hoping that the next year would be the year that broadband becomes widely available in India. I have been proven wrong before; I pray that things change this time around.
Pune-based Padmakar Kelkar has developed a solar-powered crop irrigator that can be a huge boon for farmers in these times of failing monsoons and 14-hour rural power cuts.
I had no idea what pivot irrigation is, so I looked it up in wikipedia, and to save you the trouble, I’ve copied the relevant paragraph here:
Center-pivot irrigation (sometimes called central pivot irrigation), also called circle irrigation, is a method of crop irrigation in which equipment rotates around a pivot. Central pivot irrigation is a form of overhead (sprinkler) irrigation consisting of several segments of pipe (usually galvanized steel or aluminium) joined together and supported by trusses, mounted on wheeled towers with sprinklers positioned along its length. The machine moves in a circular pattern and is fed with water from the pivot point at the center of the circle. The outside set of wheels sets the master pace for the rotation (typically once every three days). The inner sets of wheels are mounted at hubs between two segments and use angle sensors to detect when the bend at the joint exceeds a certain threshold, and thus, the wheels should be rotated to keep the segments aligned. Centre pivots are typically less than 500m in length (circle radius) with the most common size being the standard 1/4 mile machine (400 m). To achieve uniform application, centre pivots require a continuously variable emitter flow rate across the radius of the machine. Nozzle sizes are smallest at the inner spans to achieve low flow rates and increase with distance from the pivot point.
The TechReview article points out the advantages of this irrigator:
The solar panels charge the battery, and this in turn runs the machine when there is no sun. “We have run the machine 19 hours continuously without solar energy at all,” says Kelkar. The use of solar panels could be a boon for farmers in those states that get ample sunlight but not enough electricity.
Other advantages include water savings of about 30-50 percent over other pivots, zero land erosion, 30-50 percent more yield, higher return on investment, and minimum labor requirements. Compared to the drip irrigation, Kelkar’s pivot is more cost-effective. “Drip irrigation may cost around Rs 35,000 an acre, whereas my machine costs around Rs 45,000 an acre. But the cost in case of drip irrigation includes laying it out in the field every time and taking it out once it gets damaged, and you may have to spend another 15 percent every year. On a long-term basis, the cost of my machine comes out to be much less,” he adds.
Earlier, we reported that 5 Pune blogs are nominated for the IndiBloggies awards. Unfortunately, due to an oversight, we missed the fact that one of Pune’s most read blogs, Trak.in, is also nominated in the “Best Business IndiBlog” section (#13). Please check that out also.
That brings the total Pune nominations to 6. The full list is:
In the “Best Science and Technology” category (section #11) there are two Pune nominees. Dhananjay Nene’s /var/log/mind about programming and architecture and Brajeshwar, who writes about technology, and programming and linux.
Trak.in by Arun Prabhudesai in the “Best Business IndiBlog” (section #13). Please note that it is listed as “India Business Blog.”
And finally in the “Best New Indi MicroBlog” (i.e. best twitter account) PuneTech is nominated.