5. Training Centre: The Tech 7-11 needs to allocate a small area where it can provide ongoing hands-on training for business owners, end-users and support engineers. This helps in enabling a key part of the value chain because without the necessary education, not only will IT be used sub-optimally, it is likely to be not even deployed. Once people know what technology can do in the training sessions, they will use it to become more productive individually and in groups.
6. Local User Groups: The Tech 7-11 can become the local meeting place for SMEs to share their experiences with IT. This way, success stories can be diffused rapidly through the network. These local user groups can also put forth their business requirements which can be taken up for solution by the Tech 7-11 through its central engineering centre. Thus, there is a multi-way flow of information: not just between the Tech 7-11 and SMEs, but also amongst SMEs. In some ways, this is the role that local trade associations play; the Tech 7-11 helps bring the focus on and around IT and best practices.
7. College Students Co-ordination: The Tech 7-11 serves as a co-ordinating agency to manage the college students, who can be roped in to provide installation, training and support in their free time. The benefit for college students is that they get practical, hands-on, real-world experience on live technology projects, rather than working within just the confines of the theoretical, academic environment. This makes it more likely that the students will take up meaningful jobs in the domestic IT industry leveraging their skillsets and learnings, rather than working in a call centre. (There are plenty of others who can do the jobs that many of the IT graduates are now doing in call centres.) In the SME IT value chain, the college students provide an effective and rapid response teams for the low-cost resources that are needed to provide technical marketing assistance, do the installation, and provide first-level support.
8. New Tech Previews: The Tech 7-11 also demonstrates the emerging technologies be it WiFi, RFIDs, smartphones, new user interfaces, or even new software applications. This is thus the distribution point for entrepreneurs to try out their innovations. The goal is to get the early adopters in the neighbourhood interested and become the testbeds for piloting these technologies.
Thus, the Tech 7-11 plays a multi-faceted role in the tech distribution chain. It is, in effect, the hub around which the affordable computing ecosystem for SMEs needs to be built to make realthe vision of 1:1 Computing and create intelligent, real-time enterprises.
SMEs in India and other emerging markets present an enticing opportunity. And yet, many have failed to unravel this segment at the bottom of the pyramid. Recent innovations in technology combined with the commoditisation of hardware and software driven by the developed countries offers new hope and opportunity that the mass of millions of SMEs can indeed be given affordable, managed, standardised, managed technology solutions. Given the lack of legacy of IT usage, this is a market which can be the primary driver for technology growth in the coming years.