PicoPeta is going places
The company is focusing on enterprise and e-governance projects
to achieve faster break-even, says Vinutha V
|We want to work on new viable hand-held devices for
Chief Executive Officer
Four professors from the Indian Institute of Science resolved to produce affordable
computing solutions for India and other developing countries. This was the start
of PicoPeta Simputers in 2001. In its first year, an indigenous product called
the Poor Mans Computer was developed. From then on, PicoPeta
has been striving to reach out to the masses, both rural and urban, in education,
e-governance, health and micro-financing. The company exudes optimism for the
first quarter of 2005, and is set to garner a fair chunk of customers. To date,
it has over 25 customers in the government and private sector, in verticals
such as FMCG, utility billing and media.
It was not easy for the company to break the Indian mindset of not accepting
indigenously-developed computing products. Says Swami Manohar, chief executive
officer of the company, I accept that we have been very slow and systematic
till now. By studying the market, we realised that a lot of awareness has to
be created among people. At the enterprise level, it [acceptance] has picked-up,
and we have been getting a lot of inquiries.
In January 2003, the Karnataka government deployed 200 Simputers for its Bhoomi-Suggi
project. The devices were put to use for collecting data about the harvest in
rural areas of the state. This gave a fair push to PicoPeta. The data collection
system used prior to Bhoomi-Suggi had a turnaround time of about a year. Using
the Simputer, the lead-time was brought down to just one month. Currently deployed
in the districts of Bagalkot, Belgaum, Raichur, Gulbarga and Bijapur, Bhoomi-Suggi
will be replicated in other parts of the country. Seeing the success of the
project, the Karnataka government is planning to provide Simputers to 9,000
village panchayats across the state. The company has been getting inquiries
from other state governments including Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh for their
e-governance projects. It has also designed a solution for the Andhra Pradesh
e-governance project. In this initiative, people can pay their utility bills
such as telephone, water and electricity at telephone booths or to visiting
For an education project in Chattisgarh that used the Simputer, the company
went beyond merely providing hardware and software. It came up with a methodology
and an infrastructure plan that led to a sustainable and self-contained model
for school education using technology. School children and teachers used Simputers
for over six months, and the pilot project received positive feedback. The company
is now ready with the necessary application to cater to educational institutions.
For the masses
After working on it for over a year, the organisation launched the Amida in
July 2004. This marked its entry into the retail segment. The Amida comes with
innovative featuressending e-mail messages in the users own handwriting,
listening to MP3s, and reading stories from an e-library. Since the device has
a USB port, it can connect to a digital camera, CDMA phone, printer or barcode
scanner. The company decided to retail Amida Simputers through its own retail
outlet in Bangalore. Says Manohar, The Simputer is a complex product to
the common man, and this notion slowed down the process of reaching out to people.
For the Amida, we need good technical, customer, sales and after-sales support.
We will therefore be investing in advertising, creating customer awareness,
and setting up technical support in the next couple of months.
Change in strategy
From March 2005, PicoPeta will aim to broaden its user base. During a pilot
project in Mumbai, the Simputer was used to issue bills for the sale of mobile
pre-paid cards. The company says that it sees good potential for this purpose
that will boost the sales of Amida in Mumbai and Bangalore.
On the enterprise front, PicoPetas continuous support and customisation
of applications based on user requirements has lead to various telcos and financial
services outfits evaluating it for network management, DSL provisioning, banking
and share trading. The company has been associated with an online retail store
to offer an e-mail service bundled with the Amida Simputer.
PicoPeta recently introduced an office administration application that lets
users identify themselves by simply inserting a smartcard into an Amida. The
smartcard reader scans identification details from the card, and either allows
or forbids entry into the system (say, an office). The entry or exit times are
logged into the Simputers resident database, and can be synchronised with
a PC for recording and further analysis.
Implementing Sanchan software for micro-financing, PicoPeta plans to deploy
its solution in Karnataka. Here, mobile bankers armed with Amida Simputers can
educate, inform and collect data from villages. When they are back in office,
they can use a PicoPeta-developed application to transfer data and observations
to a desktop. Their managers can then generate various MIS reports, and monitor
the progress of loan disbursal programmes. The deployment model has a single
person who is responsible for the activity at a central-levelusually called
a centre or kendraand he is referred to as the centre or kendra manager.
Using the PC-side module, the kendra manager will be able to use Sanchan for
working with their kendra(s) for adding, modifying and deleting group and member
details in terms of loans and savings products. Through this, services such
as transactions, insurance and multiple data entry will be offered to people
in the hinterland.
In the next two years, PicoPeta aims to reach out. Says Manohar, We want
to work on new viable hand-held devices for developing countries. We are getting
inquiries from Malaysia, South Africa and Brazil. In the next six months we
aim to be present in all these countries.