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Making the Technology for the Base of Pyramid Industry Thrive

About 4 months ago, Sharad Sharma, the former CEO of Yahoo asked Anal Jain (MD of MicroVentures) and I if we would drive a new sub-committee within Nasscom (India's largest IT industry) focused on technology providers servicing Base of Pyramid customers. Obviously, I care about this field and would to see it grow and so I said yes. The first culmination of our efforts is 2 panel discussions on Oct 28 in Bangalore.

Register here: http://www.nasscom.org/nasscom/templates/flagshipEvents.aspx?id=57431

or read on for more...
-Sean

The last decade has witnessed a number of technology innovations targeted specifically at the bottom 60% of the world’s economic population to wonderful effect. Indian models and innovations are proving to be highly profitable and expandable to other markets; Indian telcos are registering the highest growth rates in the world, thanks in large part to innovative business models like lifetime prepaid cards and inexpensive phones that make a mobile connection affordable for almost every one. Indian MFIs are scaling and refining Bangladesh inspired models to reach millions who have traditionally lacked access to formalized credit. Our startups are creating mobile marketplaces for jobs, health and local services with players like JustDial showing how a company can overcome the constraints of low-literacy and computer access in both customers and companies – and make more money from search than established players such as Google (at least in India).

We view all of these developments with great enthusiasm and wish to foster this nascent ecosystem. In particular, it’s our hope to leverage NASSCOM to bring together start-ups, capital partners, government and large distribution platforms and companies, as the way to help new entrants better understand the Technology for the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) space and ultimately define an industry agenda to grow this market and export the solutions developed here to other countries.

Towards this end, NASSCOM is hosting 2 sessions at this year’s Product Conclave.
The first session – “Technology Opportunities serving the millions of India: The next major growth area for Indian technology firms” - focuses on companies that are profitably building innovative technologies for the Bottom of the Pyramid. This session will be hosted by Ramesh Ramanathan, the well known founder of Janaagraha, who’s micro-finance organization Janalakshmi is at the leading edge of applying technology and SaaS models to MFIs. He’ll be joined by:

* Ravi Rangan – CEO, Comat, who’s building 1000s of computer kiosks across India and helped lead a sea-change of technology innovations in land records

* Sean Blagsvedt – CEO, Babajob.com - who’s building India’s largest mobile and web portal for informal sector labor.

* Dr. V. Sudhakar – CEO, Co-Options – who are providing financial services to farmers through a network of 25,000 Primary Agricultural Co-operative Societies.

* Vivek Kamra – Head, Business Consulting, ITC Infotech , who’s eChoupals are positively affecting millions of farmers through more efficient marketplaces.

The second session – “Building a product ecosystem that addresses the millions of India” – is intended to give a pulpit to the government, capital partners and large companies that we see as essential platform and distribution partners for smaller companies. We’ll hear how these enabling organizations view the space, what they see as the pressing challenges and exciting opportunities and how they would like to work with other smaller organizations. Panelists will include:

* Krishna Durbha – Head of Mobile VAS for Reliance Communications – who runs the most active data network in India and is aggressively expanding into BOP services such as Reliance Grameen.

* Piyush Shah – Head of Emerging Market Services for Nokia – who have nationally launched LifeTools, a pre-installed mobile application that helps farmers get up-to-date prices and whether information.

* Ms. Aruna Sundararajan – Senior IAS Officer and CEO of the Common Service Centres of the Govt. of India – who is working to set up a nationwide network of thousands of digital inclusion service centers.

* Sanjay Sinha, Founder & MD, MCril, New Delhi – Senior Microfinance person, who founded and runs India’s leading rating agency for Microfinance Institutions

We expect the conversation to be extremely interesting and, just as important, we anticipate that many folks in the audience will represent many of the brightest and innovative minds in the Tech for BOP industry and look forward to a great set of discussions and connections.

We hope to see you there,
Sean Blagsvedt and Anal Jain
Oct 6, 2009
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