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How he made low-cost computing a success in India

Last updated on: July 18, 2011 12:39 IST

How he made low-cost computing a success in India

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A serial entrepreneur's vision to drive PC adoption in India promises to bring computing power to every household through the innovative use of cloud computing.

Novatium, a computing services company founded by Rajesh Jain in 2004, offers a thin client-based computing solution, which is delivered as a utility service to households and requires very low energy to function.

The company has filed 10 patents in the areas of utility-based computing services.

Read how the company is making computing affordable for everyone in the concluding part of India Brand Equity Foundation's series 'Innovations from India: Harbingers of Change'.

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Image: Rajesh Jain.

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How he made low-cost computing a success in India

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Empirical studies have revealed that the internet and other information and communication technology (ICT) based tools can help create a deeper impact since they can touch social, economic and environmental aspects of human society in many ways.

The internet can help social priority sectors such as education, healthcare and rural development by mitigating the demand-supply gap (in case of education), enhancing access for life-saving service (in case of healthcare) and generating opportunity of new income (in case of rural development).

It can help the government realise additional tax revenues of two to five per cent over and above the existing tax revenues.

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Image: Low cost PC.

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How he made low-cost computing a success in India

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The internet and other ICT-based interventions can help deliver a low carbon foot-print based economic growth, leading to savings of 7.8 giga tonnes of CO2.

 In contrast to the potential benefits, ICT has not achieved the level of impact that it could have across the developing/emerging world.

In addition to conventional concerns (such as cost of PCs, lack of connectivity, and so on) there have been concerns among household users regarding the management of upgrades to existing software, piracy in software, handling of virus attacks and the breakdown of systems (often termed as a 'hard drive crash').

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Image: Village children attend a computer class.

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How he made low-cost computing a success in India

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Rajesh Jain found a solution to these concerns - a computer interface with no responsibility behind it.

Jain founded Novatium in October 2004 (it began formal operations in January 2005).

He is also known for his web portal Indiaworld.com which he set up in 1995 (and went on to add bawarchi.com, khoj and khel.com to his repertoire), and sold to Satyam Infoway in 1999 for $115 million one of Asia's largest internet deals at the time. Today, Jain is the managing director of Netcore Solutions.

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Image: Novatium PC.

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How he made low-cost computing a success in India

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Novatium was set up with the efforts of Ray Stata (chairman of Analog Devices, which designs, produces and markets analogue, mixed-signal and digital signal processing equipment) and Rajesh Jain.

Both Stata and Jain made an investment, which together was worth $20 million, to set up Novatium.

The key drivers that led Novatium to develop the innovative service were to provide consumers with simple computing, coupled with an obsolescence-proof service.


Image: Ray Stata.

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How he made low-cost computing a success in India

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Novatium eventually set out to solve three problems concerning PC adoption in emerging markets and those are: (a) Affordability: Use the business model of the mobile industry, and also reduce the power consumption; (b) Desirability: Develop on the concept of computing as a utility and provide a desktop-like experience; (c) Manageability:

Eliminate the issues pertaining to desktop management, eliminate viruses and spyware and enable instant turn on/off of the service based on individual needs.

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Image: Novatium eventually set out to solve three problems.

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How he made low-cost computing a success in India

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An easy, practical service

Novatium incorporated the following key features into its computing utility service:

Computing as utility. The organisation developed a model whereby the computing capability of personal computers can be provided as a utility service, similar to water and power supplies.

The model is based on the concept of thin client application. Generally, the software on which a PC depends (such as the operating system) resides in the machine. In a thin client solution, the software actually resides in a remote location (such as the server of the service provider).

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Image: An easy, practical service.

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How he made low-cost computing a success in India

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The user sees only an interface (a window similar to a website's). The user's commands and requirements are executed by the remote server.

Connectivity is required for a thin client solution to work, and this can be achieved through the internet or other private networks.

Simple and innovative service interface. The user gets only a screen, a keyboard and a mouse. All the computing is done at the server level. The software, hardware and connectivity are all on the server, which are managed by Novatium.

The product has no storage, no hardware, no software, and hence no maintenance and no upgradation issues. The most interesting innovation here is that the heart and brain of the machine run on mobile phone chip technology.

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Image: User sees only an interface.

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How he made low-cost computing a success in India

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Versatile technology. Compared to other thin clients, Novatium has certain advantages. Its thin client solution can run on multiple operating systems such as Linux, Windows, Solaris and Mac.

Value-driven innovation

Based on the results that the service has been able to achieve, the impact of this service is very encouraging, for instance:

Computing at a reasonable price. Novatium's offering include Nova Navigator (earlier known as Nova Net PC) and Navigator Plus. The prices start at $108 without a monitor (includes keyboard and mouse) and $184 with a monitor.

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Image: It can run on multiple operating systems.

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How he made low-cost computing a success in India

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The device works like any conventional computer except it has no hard disk (a hard disk option can be availed of at an additional cost). The device is connected to a central server from where users can access regular Windows and Office software packages.

The basic price for a Windows package starts from $11 a month, while for the Linux suite, the price starts at $9 a month.

The other offerings include Nova Neon (a laptop like device with the same service model) and Nova cNergy (a pendrive like device which lets any regular desktop or laptop gain access to Nova Computing Services). The broadband charges have to be paid separately.


Image: Nova Neon.

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How he made low-cost computing a success in India

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Scalable model. The service has been able to reach a customer base of 40,000 users in the first half of 2010, from a user base of 150 in 2007. The service has delivered 1.2 million domestic usage days.

Easy and convenient solution There are USB ports for peripherals and there is no need for a UPS system. In case of a power failure, there will be no data loss, since everything will be safe on the server. The device provided by Nova uses 5 watts of power. It doesn't have any moving parts, and is very rugged.


Image: Device provided by Nova uses 5 watts of power.

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How he made low-cost computing a success in India

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Driving innovation in utility-based cloud computing solutions. Novatium has a total of 10 global patents. Two of the patents are titled 'Providing Utility Computing in a Cloud Computing Environment' and 'DUDM' (Desktop Utility Delivery Model).

Currently ,the service is present in over 100 cities in India and it also has a presence in Mauritius and Thailand. On the anvil are plans to expand the service to other global markets as well.


Image: Novatium has a total of 10 global patents.

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