Thursday, April 03, 2008

Can Indian Telecom Foster Cottage Industry?

Vasu Reddy from Chicago

Indian enterprise and cottage industry go hand in hand through the ages and successfully thrive along with the growing industries with huge workforces. The communications revolution of the mid-nineties through the mind boggling subscriber growth through 2007 and early 2008 should offer opportunities for India’s cottage industry to get involved in the opportunity to develop jobs and create wealth for small business person in all areas of India. The Indian cottage industry is quite enterprising and some great examples include:

· While the Mumbai workers run off to their offices and markets, the food delivery system makes sure they are served home cooked and almost hot food at their desks and on time. It is the coordination and planning that still baffles many a strategists who may never plan it as well as it is done in Mumbai.

· Farmers with very small tracts of land still are a large source of food for the Indian population. Farming in India is a cottage industry. It is exemplary that a very small piece of land can be put to use with such dedication by generations of families that live off of the land, and do it year after year.

· Weavers all across India produce materials that drape every form and shape and are famous across the world for its fine quality and beautiful work. From very simple white cotton to the most exquisite silk, all come from all over India’s weavers and for generations have had maintained their quality and beauty.

Telecom coverage is spreading into the rural areas in many parts of India, and all major carriers have announced their next round of expansion and coverage plans for rural India. The opportunity to create small businesses across the country that mirrors the enterprising cottage industries will certainly benefit a large segment of new entrepreneurs in rural India. The success stories of Micro financing in India and Bangladesh are common and similar ideas can be implemented with support from the major Telecommunications companies. There are great examples of such stories in Tamilnadu with enterprises using Kiosk owners to span into other small industries.

Indian Telecom is planning to build 1000s of towers to expand coverage to places where there is none today. Although an old idea, here is something that can be done to accomplish multiple objectives for rural India.

Each village or congregations of people require fresh water and a small tank will ably help with the supply of fresh water. Why not build a public and private enterprise relationship to create a water tank for every community with a small pumping station. On the top of the water tank install the antenna and also co-host the base equipment with the pumping station. They share power, housing and safety needed for the equipment. The financing of the water station can be through cooperative bank, which can collect for the rent through the company using the tower, and multiple companies can house small antennas to share the infrastructure. If the pumping station and water tank are built with proper specifications to house multiple companies, it will better serve the needs of coverage and also help pay for the infrastructure.

Telecom companies have recently announced that they will be building towers together with competition to save money. Investing in rural development projects, while building towers is not a bad plan for general economic development.

Further each village with a thousand homes or more has a school and can be used as a village computer center. As the telecom towers can bring in band width to each school as they are typically close to water tanks, they can be used for educational purposes, and thereby connecting them to the rest of the world. There are many state and global programs that help rural schools with libraries and computers and even the telecom giants continue to sponsor the educational programs, which further enhance the opportunity matrix for the parents of these village children.

The educational centers can start to promote their local products through the Internet. Local businessmen or co-operatives can create their own opportunities by using the internet, and also state and local governments can promote local products through the available communications means.

The Indian Telecom companies evolved very quickly compared to the global telecom companies. Be it with planning, deployment, technology and use of resources these new economic giants have been quite well structured, well managed and well planned. These excellent management attributes clearly reflect in their market valuations. Planning rural networks and economic development hand in hand is not going to be an enormous task for these very smartly managed companies. If effectively included into the telecom planning the vast Indian rural population ca not only just communicate but can become a model for economic development by simply utilizing the centuries old cottage industry and farming. Several such small initiatives to develop cooperative programs and bringing them to the global markets is already happening, and by planning rural development, promotion of local industry and communications together will be a great model for future India. People can work from where they are and not move to towns and cities that are already polluted and over populated. People can be wit their own folks and not worry of being strangers in really strange places. Children and adults can work together throughout the year and be more self-sufficient. Overall the new opportunities for commerce, education and development will lead to an India that is developing across its span, and not just in pockets.

Many alternatives are available to pass on the Telecom growth to small industry to replace the loss of export oriented jobs and farming jobs. In fact the workers of a village or rural areas who solely depend on farming have less than half a year’s work and by making simple cottage industry options available, they can work fulltime. When people participate in enterprise they not only put time to good use, but also start to get educated in money and employment matters, and will begin to translate their learning to educate their children and further develop future generation of growth all around them.

Some 20 years ago very few people in USA worked from home. They all drove or took public transportation to work, and did this for many decades. With the developments in communications and internet, now work at home is just as normal as it is going to work. We can only imagine what can be done by connecting the rural India to the world; the opportunities are unfathomable.

Putting to use the enormous abilities of the communications, implementing simple and affordable plans for rural development, including small cottage industry into the main stream development of the nation, basic education, supporting the localized industry and sharing the benefits of global knowledge; should be easily to implement. Simply start implementing small plans with every new tower that is required by the Telecom expansion, and my India will be a wonderland.

Past Perfect

Vasu Reddy from Chicago It has already happened. Past is already on the books, recorded, and can’t be changed.   It ...