Suvidhaa Infoserve, a Norwest Venture Partners (NVP) and Reliance Venture Asset Management (RVAM) funded digital services aggregator has tied up with Intel, telco BSNL, and the Karnataka State Electronics Development Corporation Limited (KEONICS) to launch an ePCO project in Karnataka. Suvidhaa will be looking to convert franchised public phone’s called PCOs (Public Call Office) into Internet kiosks, targeting over 2 lakh existing PCO’s in the state. Given the growth in mobile services in India – nearing 700 million connections – there would have been a decline in PCO usage, and BSNL faces the risk of PCO connections being cancelled: the number of landline connections in India has been on the decline.
Where Suvidhaa fits in, is that it brings on board services such as bill payments for phone, Mobile, Electricity, booking of tickets, payment of Life Insurance Premiums, and Mobile/DTH recharges, which will serve as additional sources of revenue for PCO operators. Suvidhaa currently powers over 30,000 local neighbourhood convenience stores in India, and this expansion appears to be what they raised funding for recently.
Sify vs Suvidhaa
– Cybercafe’s vs PCOs: Remember that this is a model that another ISP – Sify Technologies – has attempted by trying to launch an e-Port infrastructure, trying to use services to sell connections, and make additional revenue through service provisioning. Sify eventually decided to launch a cloud based suite of services called Sify MyLife, effectively looking beyond its own kiosks, targeting existing cybercafes. BSNL has an advantage over Sify, wherein that it will look to convert existing PCOs (already BSNL vendors), while Sify targets mainly cybercafes. On the other hand, not all PCO’s can be converted, so that 2 lakh number isn’t viable.
– USO Fund subsidy: According to the release, the ePCO infrastructure is available at a subsidized rate through the USO Fund by BSNL with an easy EMI option, and the Government of Karnataka will also provide a grant of Rs. 2000 to the first 2500 eligible PCO’s.