E-Bridge Centers to promote Self Employed E-Entrepreneurs



Small Is No Longer Beautiful ??

With the initiatives taken by the International Trade Center Geneva and India Trade Promotion Organization, there is a renewed focus on the activities and welfare of the Small Scale and tiny Sector industries in India.

At one time the slogan "Small is Beautiful", "Dispersion of Industrial Development" etc encouraged a number of qualified Engineers and others to start their own small ventures in villages and small towns. Despite the infrastructural bottlenecks these entrepreneurs added value to the community by creating jobs and production through locally available resources.

With the advent of WTO led policies of Globalization, the SSI s are becoming an extinct category in India. With this, a generation of entrepreneurs have bitten dust and their progeny have taken a oath never to venture with a business of their own. Most of them are now looking for jobs in a market where unemployment rates are already high. .

The cost of such disillusionment on the Indian society is yet to be appreciated by economists who are driving the economic policies of the country today.

If the efforts of ITC and ITPO have to succeed, there is a need for reversing the current trend of disillusionment amongst SME entrepreneurs and rebuild the confidence in our youth for starting their own ventures however small they may be to begin with.

Entrepreneurship is a rare skill which needs to be nursed and encouraged. One successful entrepreneur like Dhirubai Ambani creates thousands of smaller entrepreneurs and supports lakhs of families. Let's therefore look for ways and means to re-create entrepreneurs at lest in the E-Segment of business.

Re-Creating an Environment where E-Entrepreneurship Flourishes

naavi.org urges that on the eve of the Digital era, we should create an environment where E-Entrepreneurship flourishes. E-Entrepreneurs can be as small as a single individual having a single Computer connected to the Internet. Today they are not recognized as entrepreneurs either by the society or the financing Bankers. They do not get any finance for their E-Assets nor the Government provides them any subsidies or incentives.

It is important to encourage E-Entrepreneurs as a strategy for the E-Trade Bridge programme undertaken by ITC Geneva and ITPO New Delhi since the early adapters to E-Commerce amongst the SMEs in different sectors will act as catalysts to influence and motivate other laggards. These early adapters would normally get into the creation of E-Services for the specific sectors such as a sector specific Vortals or ASP services etc. Some of their business models would not be mere E-Transformation of existing real world business models but would be new business models  which spring up only because of the Cyber Society development and the need to Bridge the Cyber Society with the Real world society.

If policy developers do not recognize and appreciate the value of such services to the society in terms of the " Social Benefit " , the E-transformation process would be hindered.

E-Bridge Centers Suggested

naavi.org therefore suggests a few measures for the consideration of appropriate authorities in India and also would embark upon its own initiative to create an "Additional Revenue Source" for a "Branded Network of E-Entrepreneurs" to be developed by naavi.org along with other like minded companies.

One of the hurdles for quick E-transformation of SMEs  is the high costs of such transformation compared to the perceived benefits. Such costs include the Cost of Hardware, Operating Software, Application software, Security tools,  Internet connectivity, Payment Gateway expenses etc.

 Even though the cost of ownership of Computer is coming down, the cost of software ownership and Cyber security is increasing. Many of the State Governments are aggressively promoting the "Zero Piracy" policy and therefore the cost of software is unlikely to fall in the near future. On the other hand it is likely to further increase.

We need to see that in the emerging "Knowledge Society",  harnessing of the "Knowledge Resources" are not hindered by the cost of equipment and software resources.

Naavi therefore intends to create a network of "E-Bridge Centers" which will provide the E-Entrepreneurs a "Zero Capital Cost" access to the physical infrastructure required to harness the knowledge resources.

What will these E-Bridge Centers Do?

E-Bridge Centers will provide the hardware and licensed software infrastructure on a shareable basis to its member clients. It will not only be an ASP on software platforms but also on hardware platforms. It will be the equivalent of an E-Industrial Estate for Small and Tiny E-Entrepreneurs.

In another perspective, EBC s will be like Business Centers for E-Entrepreneurs.

Keeping the Cost Affordable

Today there are some Cyber Cafe's which are more than mere surfing centers. In the EBC concept, the members would be provided with software support required for normal office applications, a virtual storage place, a virtual office etc. E-Entrepreneurs would be sharing their resource with others but will have mobility across the network of EBC s affiliated to this scheme promoted by naavi.org.

If despite these value added features, costs for the Entrepreneurs are to be kept at a lower level, it is necessary for the EBC owners to have alternate revenue sources from the infrastructure already developed.

It is therefore proposed that EBC s will be developed as "E-Commerce Fulfillment Centers" and "E-Service Delivery Points".

The EBCs will also be equipped to handle high band width provisions so that they would be capable of being E-Education contact points. Cyber Law College will provide content from some of its existing courses to kick off the activity.

It is envisaged that the Government will also designate such EBC s for implementation of E-Governance projects where suitable.

Once Telemedicine facilities become a reality, EBC s may also become access points for delivery of Telemedicine services.

At present couple of services have been identified for the EBC s and this would grow in the days to come.

Helping The Regulators

The EBC concept is a business model that is fundamentally different from the business model of the current Cyber Cafes. No doubt the EBC member is also capable of "Surfing". This is where he will meet his prospective buyers and suppliers. This is where he will provide his service and earn money.

But "Surfing" in an EBC is one part of his activity just like a "Sales Manager" who has to keep traveling and visiting customer places but is not a "Traveler".

Keeping this objective in mind, the EBC s will pursue a very strong policy of preventing misuse of the facilities for any criminal activities. The activities will therefore be strictly monitored through a network software that will be mandatorily installed. This software will filter adult content, log the activities of the users and maintain activity log records for a period of three years so as to assist the law enforcement people, all on a voluntary basis.

Thus the EBC s will be "Regulator Friendly". It is therefore envisaged that the Government and more particularly the Police department could be a partner to the project in the interest of the society.

The activity log of members will include the payment flow inwards and outwards. It is therefore envisaged that the tax authorities can feel comfortable that no "leakage of income" arises in that part of E-Commerce that passes through these  Naavi affiliated EBCs.

All members would be provided with ID Cards which will enable them to use the services in the network any where in India or elsewhere which will also satisfy those in the Police authorities who strongly advocate such ID cards. The users may not mind these cards since these provide a value proposition that the service can be used at multiple access points across a city and across a country. (Infrastructure for issue of such cards is ready).


The concept of EBC s envisaged by Naavi is a set up which will address many of the regulatory concerns through a voluntary compliance of the E-Entrepreneurs.

In this process, it will create a new category of Self Employed E-Entrepreneurs.

The EBC owner himself will be a Self Employed E-Entrepreneur and probably deserves some incentive from the Government say towards purchase of legal software or meeting the cost of securing the network.

During Implementation, provisional membership would be given to the intending members and they will be upgraded with the EBC certification from naavi.org after a due process of verification and due diligence. A suitable committee would be set up for the purpose of such certification and public would be encouraged to send feedbacks about EBCs in their area to weed out those who do not comply with the standards.

The scheme will be implemented through either Cyber Law Solutions Ltd or any other suitable vehicle specially created for this purpose.

Action Point:

Are these suggestions only a dream? or Can it be a reality? ...If so can it be done soon enough to be of relevance to us?....

Naavi hopes that this is the beginning of a realizable dream. Already some partners to such a plan have emerged and it would not be difficult to get into an implementation  mode soon. If this has to be accelerated, support from the Government side as well as Corporates who can provide necessary funding support (with an acceptable ROI) would be of assistance.

I request the public and all concerned persons to send in their views including criticisms if any.


December 22, 2002

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