Fact finding trip to Mayilaaduthurai

Before getting started, let’s look at these major terminologies associated with the project, because at moments we ourself got confused about these even after having much discussions.

TeNet:

Formed by a group of like-minded professors at the IIT, Madras, the TeNeT Group has conducted extensive research on the issues involved in providing connections to small towns and rural areas. Apart from these, it also involves in providing online consultancy to farmers, medical diagnostic kit production in association with its partners and also create revenue generation models for rural India.

TeNeT is focused mainly on meeting the technology needs of developing countries and one of the significant outputs of its research is corDECT. Its mission include to transform communication in India by enabling
– 200m telephones & 50m broadband connections
– Connect every village to double rural per capita GDP
– Set next generation wireless standards
– Drive a couple of billion dollar product companies
– High quality distance education for rural areas

CorDECT:

All the LSP ‘s (Local service providers) and its associated kiosks are supported by CorDECT . CorDECT is an advanced Wireless Access system designed keeping the economic realities of a country like India in mind. Midas Communication Technologies and IIT, Madras have developed it, in association with Analog Devices, USA. The corDECT air interface supports 10 km’s of line-of-sight connectivity and has the provision to extend this to 25 km’s using Repeaters.

N-Louge communications (P)Ltd:

Internet and telecommunication provider, launched by IIT-TeNet to serve the information and communication needs of people living in small towns and rural areas of India. The company has developed a three-tiered business model that enables it to fulfill its mission based on the belief that delivery and management of Internet services should devolve to the level of the supply chain that comes closest to the user of the service. This decentralized model of operation draws, in large part, from the success of cable TV operations in India.

a) At the top level is n-Logue, which provides equipment, training and support to the LSPs and kiosks, and also takes care of regulatory and connectivity issues.
b) At the second level, n-Logue identifies and partners with a local entrepreneur (also called a Local Service Provider or LSP) in every area it wishes to operate.These LSPs find subscribers, provide services and collect payments.
c) At the bottom level are the village kiosks, which provide services and information aimed at the rural market. With the help of n-Logue, the LSPs recruit the local entrepreneurs who set up the kiosks. Thus there are up to three business entities involved in the operation – n-Logue, the LSP and a kiosk operator.

Chiraag:

Chiraag which means "enlightment" refers brand name of LSP’s. Each LSP’s have the following equipments:

A leased Internet connection to the nearest Internet gateway
A 60’ tower with multiple CBSs to transmit the corDECT signal
A DIU and RAS for routing Internet and voice data
Radius, NAT and DNS servers
Software to bill customers on a monthly basis and track the payments.
Chiraag also provide services in Education, Agriculture, E-commerce, E-governance, VoIP, DTP, Astroservices, browsing and some other online & offline services.

Village Kiosks:

With the assistance of n-Logue and the financial support from the State Bank of India, the LSPs recruit local entrepreneurs to set up and run village-based information kiosks. These kiosk owners are typically locally based men or women who have at least a 12th Standard education, and demonstrate the ability and motivation to run their own business. Each village kiosks has following equipments to the minimum,

Wall Set that receives the wireless corDECT signal
Branded PC with 15” color monitor
Computer peripherals including speaker, microphone, CD-ROM, digital camera, inkjet
Printer and sound card
UPS with battery providing 4 hours of back-up power for PC
All required cabling
An application suite consisting of word-processing, browsing and email software all
in local language as well as English.

22September2006(10.00PM):

As planned in our earlier meeting at Coffee Day, our five member team
Syed- https://orione.wordpress.com
Ragavan- http://nontechie.wordpress.com
Vignesh- http://www.vicky.in
Sugumar — http://srilux.blogspot.com
Ravi – http://jatropha.blogspot.com

We left Chennai from Tambaram in Tambaram-Mayilaaduthurai Fast Passenger with full of hope to study the feasibility of TeNet-n-Louge project. The entire journey was peppered with discussions on what could be done and how it could be done until 1 am in the morning as we were nearing the destination.

23September2006(5.30AM):

We reached Mayilaaduthurai and headed to Hotel Silambu.

8.00AM:TKF team members had a formal introducton, discussion and break-fast with Ms.Saloni ( our Tenet Liason for the Trip and head of Rural BPO project for Tenet) also Mr.David ,a Chennaitee who works with the centre.

9.00AM: Saloni took us to the Chiraag access centre(LSP) and we met one of one of the staff, Mr.Ashok at first and he explained the functioning of the village KO’s and access centre.

9.45AM: We met Mr.Vijay Iyer who heads the centre and he elaborated about services the rendered by Chiraag. With him a plan was made on how we will take up the task of the interaction with the rural kiosks for the entire day , we planned to visit the following Kiosk’s of which we could visit only three centres.All the village kiosk’s are located within 10km radius from the LSP (access centre-corDECT).

1) Kuthaalam-Mr.Swaminathan
2) Railadi-Mr.Saravanan
3) Theradi-Ms.Amalorpavam
4) Semmanarkovil-Ms.Vennila
5) Punganoor-Mr.Nazroodin
6) Arasur-Mr.Ilayabharathi.

Chiraag-Infocomm-Internet&telephony centre(LSP):

Here, we look at the access centre or LSP of Mayilaadurai.The following information was gathered from the technical engineer of the centre-Mr.Saravavanan who has a diploma in Electrical and Electronics Engineering. Chiraag in tie up with ITC boosts Agarbatthi production among ill-literate as a revenue generation model. The centre has equipped with 2 systems with net connection, 2 systems without connection,2UPS, 2digicams,Genset,2Webcams,2Printers,CD writer, reader.
Bandwidth: 35kbps; Phone service: Reliance.

10.30AM-We started our kiosk visit in 2 autos accompanied with Mr.Ashok kumar (N-Louge project associate) who holds a management degree and Ms.Saloni.

Kiosk-01-app.11.15PM-

It was the first kiosk at Kuthaalam, which is being run by Mr.Swaminathan who holds a Diploma in Electrical and Electronics communications.He is also a cameraman and he runs this kiosk along with his own electrical shop in the front. The kiosk is equipped with 2 systems, scanner, printer, CD writer, and web cam.
The centre is utilized by the near by ONGC staff and public. The centre is located in the proximity of 8 schools of which two are higher secondary schools including 2 matriculation schools and a engineering college.

Kiosk-02-app.12.oopm-

Here we had a ideal lady who fits in to our policies. She gave us the hope that we can take up the project. Goes by the name Amalorpavam, she seems to be rocking in the field of e-governance. She holds a B.com., degree, and deals regularly with government officials like IAS officers, Dhasildhar and other officers through web cam and tries to solve public illness.

The centre has single system, scanner, webcam and printer.The main feature about her is that she is in to this field fully without any other side business like some others and she is from the place called Theradi which is located on the way to Kutraalam from Mayilaadurai.

But we bound to loss this promising lady as she has got a government job in a far away place from this center and she will be moving to that place shortly.So,this centre will be managed by her brother who completed ITI and also who is a major supporting factor for Ms.Amalorpavam.

Kiosk-03-app12.30pm—

This centre is being managed by Mr.Saravanan who is running a type writing institute , DTP centre and a provisional store in the front ,one of the reliable customer for the access centre in terms of payment and other factors when he was having connection some time back and now he is having 2 systems without connection and Fax,,..

He holds M.sc.,B.Ed.,PGDCA,MHMP,DFT and also into his doctorate and seems to be over enthusiastic for the project if it will earn him money .He was working as a data entry operator in a Tamil Daily called “Daily thandhi”some time back.So he has good contact with the local reporters. He has authored many short stories and articles on temple History,,,.. which in total amounts to 300.

Back to access centre—1.00PM-

After slight refreshment, we continued our discussions with Mr.Iyer for about 30 minutes. He shared the success stories of the access centre and weekly visit made by couple of the district IAS officers and other government officials like DSP and their interactions with the rural kiosks and follow-up actions made on some of their problems and we also happen to meet some other Kiosk operators, they were,

Mr.Venkatramani-Aruvapaalayam
Mr.Sendhil kumar-Photographer and also doing Agarbatthi business
Mr.Sivakumar-who is doing CAD training.

App.1.30PM —

We moved back to the hotel for lunch .After a heavy lunch, we had a very hot discussion and argument in the hotel for about one hour on
Kiosk operators, their potential, expectancy and revenue generation,,..

Afternoon-3.15pm—-

We met Ms.Vennila from Semmanar kovil .We as usual started explaining her about Computer, Internet, Blogging.,,,but at the end we came to know she holds a B.E., Degree in IT and she seems to have come across some blogs. She is the one who is teaching basics of computers and its operation to the kiosk operators .She also seems to be promising

Apart from these operators, myself and Ragavan happen to meet some other kiosk operators who had been to the accessing center on that day for their personal reasons.We found some are capable for this project apart from those operators whom we had been directed to meet.

App.3.45-4.45PMAgain we had interaction with Mr.Iyer ..

App.after 5.30pm—We got back to the hotel and rested for about 2 hours. We have discussed about internet and basics of blogging, content creation,,…with all the kiosk operators we came across.

8.00PM—TKF hosted dinner to the Tenet group and Mr.Iyer at Hotel Silambu.

9.00PM—Post dinner after bidding pleasantries to our local host Vijay we moved back to the Mayilaadurai station from the hotel.

9.30Pm—The entire team got into the train with so many unanswered questions in the
minds.
24Sep06-5.30AM-The team reached Tambaram station and we moved back to home .

Some observations made by the team:

1) Connectivity is very slow. So we lost our interest in live blogging from the spot.
2) We found very few promising operators for the project.
3) Revenue generation is not possible at present since the content also will be primarily in Tamil , regardless of its translation in the future.
4) It would be fine if we can arrange a meeting with all the kiosk operators affiliated with the LSP. So that we can come out with some more able operators. Hope Mr.Iyer will make this Possible for the second fact finding team which will be visiting the kiosk’s next month.

Lot more has to be discussed with the whole (15 member) team in the next meeting. Lets hope The Almighty will be on our side and lead us in the right path!!!

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4 thoughts on “Fact finding trip to Mayilaaduthurai

  1. Looking forward for the next meeting.
    Some thinking aloud:
    1) Instead of trying to recruit a handful of blog writers, will it be a good starting point to look for blog readers? Here we can perhaps leverage the BlogCamp community to recommend interesting content, engage the wannabe readers through traditional communication like telephone etc, handhold readers till they get it. And BlogCamp evangelists could perhaps feature the prospective readers in the posts( A sure shot way to make them read at least one blog post!)

    The underlying logic is: world wide the ratio of blog writers is a small percentage of blog readers; Same will be true in smaller communities too. If, by intervention we want to create bloggers, creating blog readers is a good starting point.

    From the overall sustainability point of view also this makes sense. ( More readers = more revenue for the Kiosks and sustainability; Once kiosks are sustained it is just a matter of time the benefits of ICT will touch the target segment) And the challenge for we Blog(ger) evangelists is to convert these readers to writers.

    2)
    There is a whole discourse going on in the Blogosphere about the (Making Money) With Blog and Because Of Blog. I think it is relevant here too.

    In a nutshell, within BlogCamp community Amit Agarwal/Rupya.com makes money With Blogs whereas Dina makes money Because Of Blog.

    Cheers.
    -Balaji S.

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