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The 3G Economy Part 1

Small villages could become global centers of innovation and enterprise, writes Puneet Mehrotra.

india Updated: Apr 11, 2007 17:07 IST

An enterprising Indian - Ratika Pandey

Ratika Pandey is an enterprising young girl. She is all of 24 now just back after working for a year in Delhi. Ratika did her graduation from Delhi University, which she thought was a waste of time so alongwith college she decided to work part time as a researcher and invested the money she earned in a web designing school. She then worked for a year at a design firm and picked up practical skills about understanding client needs and more.

Ratika Pandey doesn't have any academic record to boost of. She studied in the local village school, a school without any classrooms. In class eight her headmaster father decided to send her to Blue Roses Public School (blue roses! I thought roses were red! Oh! But that's a PUBLIC school!) in Haldwani, a small town in the foothills of Himalayas. She secured 70 per cent in her board examination that secured her admission in an insignificant college in Delhi University in a course that perhaps is not worth mentioning.

A tiny village of India - Kukuchina

Now about Kukuchina. Kukuchina is a beautiful small village with 30 houses north of Himalayas. You can see the entire Himalayan range from here. It's the last town on the motorable road 30 kms from Dunagiri. If you could fly you will probably reach China in perhaps an hour from there. The town didn't have electricity till a few years ago. Infrastructure is as bad or good (depending on how optimistic or pessimistic you are) as any other village in India. Telephones don't exist. Cell phones work fantastically.

The village bond

Ratika and her father are the only two members in her family. Her father's eyesight has almost gone. For years he laboured at the village school teaching little kids lessons in values, in education and more. He went beyond his means fending for Ratika. Even sending her to a public school in Haldwani where the fee was a full Rs 750 per month (almost 25 per cent of his salary) wasn't an easy task for him. For Ratika's graduation he had to forgo his provident fund.

Back to roots

Ratika felt a sense of obligation towards her father. Even otherwise the Delhi life was driving her crazy. Kukuchina was a thousand times better place than Delhi, Ratika felt. The mountain breeze, the village bonds, a sense of responsibility was all calling her back to her village.

In June 2008 she decided to take a plunge.

Long live the entrepreneur

Kukuchina, the village, didn't have any infrastructure to boost of as I mentioned earlier. Not even telephones. But Kukuchina has really good cellular phone connectivity thanks to BSNL. In January 2008 BSNL launched its 3G services delivering around 256 kbps wirelessly. Kukuchina like 1000's of other villages of India now had an invisible super expressway in its air.

Ratika after her graduation had worked for Pixel Dot Design company in Delhi. Web designing she had already learnt from the design school. But here she picked up some invaluable skills. Pixel Dot Design company had an entirely overseas clientele. 90 per cent business of Pixel Dot Design were procured from freelance sites like elance, freelancer and rentacoder. Ratika besides web designing was also in charge of handling her customers. She learnt invaluable skills here. Ratika Pandey had an idea.

In June 2008 she decided to move back to Kukuchina. Her sole noteworthy possessions were her savings of Rs 15,000 and a laptop she had bought for Rs 27,000.

In June 2008 Kukuchina still didn't have telephone connections. Electricity supply was erratic. But the village air did have access to a 256 kpbs connection and that was all Ratika needed.

A Global Services Inc

She set up a little sole proprietorship firm called India Designs. Her costs were far less than any of her freelance counter parts in the cities. She now bid for design orders, keeping her bid far lower than others. By the end of June 2008 (less than 1 month) she had made $980 ie almost Rs 43,000 (more than twice her salary). Ratika had perhaps the most beautiful office in the world. With the sky above and the snow capped mountains in front of her. By the first quarter Ratika had a turnover of $6000 ie more than Rs 2,50,000, the money she received via the wire transfer routed via the local Post Office. Besides Ratika also has an "international account" in Paypal through which she buys products and tools she needs by paying a $ equivalent. Currently Ratika is planning to diversify her business by hiring as apprentices her bum chum buddies Payal and Koyal. Her business philosophy is simple, procure more, deliver more, profit more. The information superhighway in the village air now. All she had to do was make her product available on it.

The last word

Ratika maybe fictional but enterprise in India isn't. Innovation and enterprise have been the wheels on which our village economy has moved so far. Multiply the Ratika effect by a million X and see the impact on the Indian economy. Small villages could become global centers of innovation and enterprise. It took just 2-3 years and an IT boom to bust the image of Indians as a nation of snake charmers. Empower the villages with connectivity and see the magical transformation of a super power called India which lives in its villages. The govt has only promised but delivered nothing. It's useless even expecting anything from them. We are not a demo-militia, we are a democracy and spectrum is our right. The least they can do is free the spectrum and deliver it as per deadline they themselves set. It is beyond imagination what a "Ratika x Million X" effect could do to the GDP of our country. Call it a 3G economy, that's where the future is.

Puneet Mehrotra is a web strategist at www.cyberzest.com and edits www.thebusinessedition.com you can email him on puneet@cyberzest.com