NET.COLUMNS: Intranets In India: Where’s The Net And Where’s The Content?

The biggest buzzword in the Indian infotech industry (after, of course,
Y2K) is I-n-t-r-a-n-e-t. Every MIS manager wants to set one up, every
computer/networking company offers Intranet solutions. In the U.S., the
Intranet market has grown spectacularly over the last 12-18 months as
companies look to wire up everyone in sight. But in India, there are
two fundamental problems – not technology related – with respect to
Intranet deployment.

The first is the lack of a robust, cost-effective wide area
network infrastructure. Say, you have offices in Bombay, Delhi,
Bangalore and Madras. How do you inter-connect them? You have
three options: leased lines from the DoT, your own private VSAT
network, using the Internet to build a virtual private network by
taking leased lines to your Intranet.

In the U.S., companies have gravitated towards the third option, thus
saving them significant infrastructure expenses. Piggy-backing on the
Internet makes a lot of sense: you use a public network whose
bandwidth is constantly increasing and you only take leased lines to
the nearest available Internet Service Provider, thus saving you a lot
of network management headaches.

In India, if the costs of taking Internet leased lines can be brought
down along with the lead time to get these lines, many more Indian
organisations will begin to use Intranets. Perhaps, technologies like
frame-relay and ISDN can be explored to offer connectivity to
corporates to VSNL’s local GIAS nodes.

A related issue is the huge difference in local- and wide-area
speeds. According to a Bombay-based networking consultant, while
India is near state-of-the-art in LAN access (100 Mbps Ethernet, ATM
switching), we are still 5-6 years behind in the wide-area
technologies (64 Kbps to 2 Mpbs). Urgent attention needs to be given
to increasing the bandwidth available between cities (a National
Internet Infrastructure Project) to 155 Mbps or more, and permitting
corporate access to this network at speeds of 512 Kbps to 2 Mbps at
down-to-earth prices.

The second problem limiting the deployment of Intranets is the
lack of content. Internal data needs to be digitised – HTMLised – so
that this can be accessed from Web-based front-ends. Also, there needs
to be more Indian content relevant for a local audience which should
be “pushed” onto corporate networks.

There is a lot of content being put out by organisations in India:
more than 600 companies have home pages, and most publishing houses
have put up their own web sites. Today, most of this is being accessed
by non-resident Indians. We need people within this country who can
get access to this- not necessarily via a phone-call,
but right on their local network at high-speeds.

This is not to say that Intranets won’t be deployed in
India. Organisations are already putting in place extensive networks
using Internet technologies: the foremost being The Times of India
group, which has used leased lines to inter-connect its offices
nationwide. But a combination of cheaper and faster Internet access
for corporates along with relevant content for an Indian audience will
help in ensuring that Intranets become more widespread.

Related Stories:

  • On IndiaLine: Subra Venkat, Digital Asia Pacific Intranet Marketing Manager’s views on Indian Intranets
  • On IndiaLine: Madanmohan Rao’s
    editorial on Intranets
  • Osama Manzar on the Times of India Group Intranet and the I.I.M. Intranet

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.