Folk Computing

Ramesh Jain writes in the context of the $100 computer buzz:

Developing computing approaches that will be less dependent on a specific language, ability of using keyboard, and on literacy level of users is essential to bringing benefits of computing to masses in Africa, India, China, and many other countries. And most approaches to bring $100 computer are focused on taking current computing and infrastructure and somehow reducing the price of the device. This assumption does not appear right. What is needed is to develop not only the device but complete infrastructure that will let so called bottom of pyramid people to benefit from it because that will be for them. For content it is easy to see that content for a group of people is best prepared by that same group. If we just provide a device the problem is not solved.

So it is nice to try to develop $100 folk computer but it will be better to develop folk computing.

The difficulty is that it is easy to develop a $100 computer. It is a product with well defined goal. Folk computing is an approach to computing that will be slow to evolve and will require persistent efforts by people from different backgrounds.

Indian Retail

Anand Sridharan writes:

Retail in India is an extremely interesting area, where companies are still experimenting to get the right mix of store formats and categories. While Bessemer still cannot invest in Indian retailers due to FDI restrictions, I follow the sector quite closely out of personal interest. Large retailers, with chains of stores following similar formats, are just beginning to make their presence felt and Indias largest retailer is still short of $500 million in revenue.

I am long on Subiksha and view their format to be best suited to the Indian market for food & grocery retail. Their approach combines the local low-overhead front-end of Indian kirana shops with the efficient supply chain of a large retailer. Subikshas shops are no-frills (sub-500 sq ft, non-airconditioned), do not allow consumers to walk through the store to browse products (no aisles no wasted area) and well distributed (they aim to have a store within 1 kilometer of any household I suspect they are close to this target in many parts of Chennai).

n-Logue and Rural India

Sramana Mitra writes about n-Logue (in which I am an investor and on the Board):

India is a complex market, but in rural India, the complexity escalates significantly. And yet, imagine the power that a company would command having cracked the rural India communication / information market?

n-Logue is a contender for such power.

n-Logues business model has been inspired by the success of long distance Public Call Offices (PCO) model and the Cable TV Operator model in India. The 950,000 PCOs, which are roadside booths offering telephony services, account for about 25% of the total fixed line telephony income in India. The success of these ventures proved that demand aggregation, a basket of services approach and local entrepreneurship could combine to make a rural internet cum telephony kiosk operationally viable. These principles are the foundations of n-Logues approach.