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
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
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
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 "
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
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
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
In another perspective, EBC s will be like Business Centers for
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
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
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
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
I request the public and all concerned persons to send in
their views including criticisms if any.
December 22, 2002