Can a new initiative by MarcaTel India and Danish tech giant Bluetown be the game-changer to bridge India’s digital divide?
Competitiveness in today’s business environment isn’t merely about cutting costs and raising revenues. Positive externalities are critical to survival and growth. The key to any successful modern-day enterprise, therefore, lies in its ability to leverage new technologies and generate a social impact.
One organisation that seems to have grasped that perspective right at the outset is MarcaTel India, which is a division of LaMarca Knowledge and Services Pvt. Ltd. – the latest initiative from the LaMarca Group of Companies.
In May this year, MarcaTel announced a major partnership with Denmark-based technology giant Bluetown for a project that seeks to revolutionise Internet connectivity in rural India. Under the project, MarcaTel will be using technology provided by Bluetown to set up localised public WiFi hotspots in villages across India.
The core aim of the project is to bridge the digital divide in the country by ensuring that more and more people log on to the World Wide Web, without data costs burning a hole in their pockets.
Once connected, a user can enjoy a constant speed of 1MBPS. What that means is that while a consumer can select a data plan as per his or her requirement, there would be no additional charge or reduction in data transfer speed at any point of time. Once the pack is exhausted, the consumer can simply recharge and continue to access data at a constant speed.
Moreover, keeping in mind the ongoing data pricing war among telecom providers in the country, MarcaTel is not only looking to offer competitive tariff plans but is also maintaining pricing constant for users across the country.
|1 GB – Rs. 99 for 30 days|
|3 GB – Rs. 249 for 30 days|
|7 GB – Rs. 499 for 30 days|
|Unlimited – Rs. 999 for 30 days|
While smart pricing and constant data speed form the bedrock of MarcaTel’s offering, the key differentiators of its services will likely be its alignment with Government of India’s Digital India campaign and its unique distribution model.Keeping in tune with the vision of the Digital India campaign, MarcaTel says that it will be providing targeted information and knowledge pertaining to various government welfare schemes that are meant to benefit its consumers.
“MarcaTel is very much within the ambit of the Digital India initiative. It is aimed at providing last mile connectivity at the rural level. Once the network is established, one of the initiatives that we intend to undertake is to extensively promote both state and central government schemes that benefit the common man,” says Narayanan Rajagopalan, President of LaMarca Group of Companies.
The company will be executing this vision through a unique distribution model that relies on a network of franchisees that it is terming as Micro Commerce Entrepreneurs (MCEs).
“A Micro Commerce Entrepreneur is the WiFi tower owner who will hold the monopoly for a tower in the local area and would generate revenue by selling recharge coupons. MarcaTel will choose MCEs through local advertising and word of mouth connections,” says Rajagopalan.
While MCEs will have to make an initial, one-time investment of Rs. 600,000 for the installation of the WiFi tower, MarcaTel will be providing them with technical know-how and skill enhancement training from a business perspective.The company says that it is aiming to achieve complete rollout of its services by March 2018. However, getting to that stage will be step-by-step process.In the first phase, MarcaTel will focus on setting up its network and services in the southern Indian states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. That will be followed by infrastructure development in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal and only then will it seek to achieve pan-India rollout.