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Archive for March, 2007

Ashok Jhunjhunwala’s many tenets

Posted by g.e. on March 10, 2007

Seattle Post Intelligencer ‘s full coverage of the Sam Pitroda of Today’s India is here.

Some snippets follow:
The professor created a business incubator called the Tenet Group to help foster technology startups. But, in a classic Indian twist, the mandate is quite different than what you might find on Silicon Valley’s Sand Hill Road.

Rather than trying to build the next Yahoo or Google, hoping to serve the world, Tenet’s entrepreneurs are hoping to serve the needs of rural India.

As Jhunjhunwala put it: “We formed Tenet with the objective of taking IIT students to the next level. We also decided to focus on rural areas, where 700 million of India’s 1.1 billion people still live. We’re trying to show that innovation can happen in our own markets. In doing so, we’re coming up with new ideas to help the nation.”

Walking around the group’s offices, which are integrated into the IIT campus, one can see many examples of this “socially conscious entrepreneurship”:

# Midas Communications Ltd., one of the earliest Tenet companies, has grown to deliver telecom services to millions across India using breakthrough wireless routing. The company employs 600 in Chennai and does business in 25 other countries.
# Oops Private Ltd. is creating ways to bring video conferencing to remote villages, using the low-end technologies available. Oops has figured out a way to do video conferencing on bandwidth as low as 20 Kbps, allowing kids to attend classes with teachers hundreds of miles away.
# ReMeDi Ltd. is using similar bandwidth optimization technology to help villages that have no doctors. And they’re delivering the systems for the equivalent of $250.

The list goes on. Low-cost weather stations. Rural ATMs that cost about $1,200 compared with the usual $10,000 to $15,000. Thin-client computers that cost about $100. It’s all coming out of an IIT system once derided for a lack of innovation.

“India was dormant,” said Jhunjhunwala. “Now it’s growing. But the rural areas are being left behind.”

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