The opportunity lies in creating the software, and making it available as a bundle for a flat price. Many of the building blocks are available in open-source. What is needed is to componentise these modules, build a web services wrapper around them and use a single login for access to all these applications.
The primary target audience are the small and medium enterprises (SMEs). One can think of three types of SMEs, based on their maturity level: the babies, who need desktop computing, and the messaging and security applications; the teenagers, who need the business applications, to automate their processes; and the adults, who need topsight in the form of the information management applications.
The alternative paths in terms of technology adoption that we have been following in India are non-consumption and software piracy. Not using technology when the rest of the world does is not the solution. Business will go to the most efficient. Technology is a key weapon in this war. It needs to be aggressively adopted by enterprises. The few who have chosen to adopt technology find the price of hardware and software to be high. Many among them take the route of piracy. The result is that India has among the highest piracy levels in the world.
The solution does not lie in either forsaking technology or stealing it. The correct approach is to create compelling, cost-effective alternatives these may not be as good as the best in the world to begin with, but they are more than good enough to make a difference. This is where server-centric computing and open-source software can form the foundation for creating the SME Tech Utility.
India has at least three million SMEs. Imagine the potential market if one can start servicing these organisations with IT solutions. My estimate is that there are at least 50 million employees across these enterprises. Putting a computer with the appropriate software on each persons desks is the way to realise productivity gains. Fulfilling just their software needs is a potential market of USD 10 billion (Rs 50,000 crores) which can be opened up over the next 5 years.
Affordable computing solutions are the starting point. Where are the human resources to build and operate these systems going to come from? The answer again lies within the tens of thousands of students in Indias engineering colleges are waiting.
Tomorrow: Engineering Colleges
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