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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Internet Movement Pioneers – More To Come

The Week has an interesting article by Sabeer Bhatia and an equally interesting profile of Rajesh Jain. Highly timely , it covers the evolution of the internet thus fare and related opportunities and give a look ahead in terms of what could be in store. Sabeer Bhatia writes, The growth in Internet usage did not happen in a steady manner. The inflexion point happened in the late 90s precipitated by two innovations — the availability of the ubiquitous Web browser and e-mail services such as Hotmail. Since then, the Internet has evolved into a platform for free speech that is now accessed by nearly a billion users worldwide, and its influence and impact on communications, commerce and intellectual freedom is unprecedented. In India, this opened up opportunities for consumers—the medium could be leveraged to achieve social, business and development objectives—and for software creators to craft technology solutions based around the Internet to establish India as a powerhouse for innovation. India’s performance on the first front has been middling. The Internet user population in India is estimated at around 25 million - it is an anaemic figure. Also, this growth is concentrated almost exclusively within large cities. I am often asked a question: "Could you have done Hotmail in India?" And my answer has inevitably been, "No!" Had I attempted to create Hotmail in India, somebody would have come to me claiming that I was taking away the revenues of phone or fax companies! The Internet can be a powerful democratising force, offering greater social, economic and political participation to communities that have traditionally been overlooked. While there have been several attempts to bring down the cost of PCs to an affordable level, these efforts have been largely misplaced. I do not believe that bringing down the cost of a PC, to say Rs 10,000, would magically facilitate a ‘tipping point’ that would unleash wide adoption. Mobile networks, that are increasingly pervasive in India, will provide the last-mile channel for individuals to access the public Internet network and these will increasingly be broadband in nature. To boot, Internet access can be provided by upgrading the many privately-run public telephone offices in the country today. This blog covered about challenges and unique solutions in improving teledensity in India.
The week article goes on to cover Rajesh Jain. Before fame and money embraced Jain he swallowed many failures. His foray into software development failed, forcing him to take a break in the US in 1994. Fascinated by the power of the Internet, he started IndiaWorld, a Web-based news and information service for NRIs, with his savings. IndiaWorld made rapid strides in collecting content as well as making eye contact. Consisting of Khel.com, Khoj.com, Samachar.com and Bawarchi.com, it became one of the largest India-centric portals. Rajesh feels that a positive aspect of the Internet boom was that it triggered a "flavour of entrepreneurship". He wished that the boom had lasted a little longer. "With any new technology, we tend to overestimate what it can do in the short term and underestimate what it can do in the long term," he says. "For anything to work, the eco-system has to fall into place." Jain is now on a mission to take the Internet to 100 million Indians through his venture, Novatium.
Interesting prople, iconic entrepreneurs and lot more is expected to come from both.

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Sadagopan's Weblog on Emerging Technologies, Trends,Thoughts, Ideas & Cyberworld
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