Rob Katz

India’s IT Ecosystem – A BOP Success Story?

EChoupal SanchalakEric Cantor blogs over at Acumen Fund about the emerging ecosystem of businesses, NGOs, development folks, and government agencies working in the Indian BOP tech sector to close the digital divide and empower low-income communities. First, an excerpt – then my take:

This ecosystem is made up of actors from a wide spectrum, who approach poor markets from a different perspective. Drishtee…is making significant impact with its innovative model. Many of the other players in this space (e.g., N-Logue, ITC’s e-choupals, HLL’s iShakti and Tarahaat) are providing services across this new distribution channel and are producing key learnings as well. Intel’s Emerging Markets Platform Group has produced a Community PC incorporating design criteria suited to the conditions of a village, which include unpredictable electricity availability, dusty conditions, bugs (the live ones!) and sparsely available technical support, that competes with another interesting solution, MIT’s One Laptop Per Child.

I didn’t think it was possible to distill this myriad activity into one paragraph, but Eric does an admirable job. Based on my experience as a researcher for the now-retired Digital Dividends project, I’d like to make an observation: design and service provision is great, but what’ll determine success or failure in the end is the business model. At Digital Dividends, we saw a seemingly endless stream of telecenters go belly-up when their donor funding ran dry. The kiosk models (Drishtee, N-Logue, Tarahaat) struggled with this at first – and they are the survivors. I’m curious to see what changes they’ve made – to put it simply, how are they making money? How’s Intel planning to commercialize the Community PC? And don’t even get me started on the OLPC – read David Kirkpatrick’s Fortune article or Ethan Zuckerman’s observations rather than listen to me rant.

(Via Acumen Fund blog)