Wrap up of Enterprise India Show, Yangon Nov 10-13, 2011 21 Dec, 2011

Enterprise India, sponsored by the Indian Embassy and CII, started with a ribbon cutting ceremony performed by His Excellency Dr. Y. S. Seshadri, India’s Ambassador to Myanmar, His Excellency Mr. Soe Thane (Ministry of Industry I &II), His Excellency, Win Myint (Ministry of Commerce), and His Excellency Myint Swe (Yangon Division Prime Minister) and Sanjay Kirloskar, Mission Leader and Chairman of CII ASEAN/ANZ Regional Committee.

Ravi Ailawadhi, CEO of Shyam Networks represented both VNL and Shyam at the show. He personally introduced the Ambassador and Ministers to VNL’s Village Site and explained how VNL can help transform the lives of Myanmar’s villagers living in rural areas, while at the same time enabling mobile operators to make a profit even at very low ARPUs. They were very interested in learning more about how VNL’s systems require no connections to the electrical grid, or any expensive diesel generators. They were very happy to learn that VNL is interested in finding local manufacturing partners to source components of VNL’s systems within Myanmar itself.

During the first day, Mr. Ailawadhi was also interviewed by SkyNet, one of Myanmar’s major TV channels where he discussed VNL’s offering for Myanmar and how access to telephony services and broadband can dramatically change a village for the better, opening up e-learning and e-health, expose locals to potential job opportunities, as well as providing a platform for local business to expand their market range. These types of added benefits is a vital end result of VNL’s GSM & broadband plan for Myanmar’s rural areas.

On the second day of the show, Mr. Ailawadhi introduced VNL’s solution to His Excellency, Thura Thiha Tin Aung Myint Oo, Vice President of the Union of the Republic of Myanmar. Minister of Ministries, His Excellency Myint Swe, accompanied the Vice President.

Later in the day, VNL had the pleasure of meeting with Aung Myint Htun, Joint Secretary General of the Mandalay Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Jeanne-Elise M. Heydecker, AVP Marketing for VNL, explained the value proposition of VNL’s solution and detailed some of the benefits of bringing affordable telecommunications and internet to the villages of Myanmar. Mr. Htun videotaped the presentation in order to share the information with the Chambers’ members at their next meeting.


PRESS RELEASE: USOF India Certifies VNL’s Multi-Award-Winning Solar-Powered GSM System 11 Aug, 2011

Administrator USOF Mr. Ajay Bhattacharya handing over the
Certificate of Completion to Mr. Rajiv Mehrotra, Chairman & CEO of VNL.

New Delhi, August 10 2011
The Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), Department of Telecommunications, Government of India, has awarded certificate of successful completion of project to Vihaan Networks Limited (VNL), an Indian manufacturer of telecommunications infrastructure equipment, establishing benefits of its new technological development of GSM Cellular Rural Telephony Solution to address the challenges of the rural telecom sector. The certificate was presented to VNL by the Administrator USOF Mr. Ajay Bhattacharya, who expressed his happiness on the successful completion of the project.

The USOF has found VNL’s WorldGSM™ solution to be: environmentally-friendly and suitable for deployment in Rural and Remote villages; industrial areas with low capacity requirement; and isolated areas which have limited or no grid power and poor infrastructure.

VNL’s WorldGSM™ telecom network infrastructure solution for remote locations, villages and small towns provides both voice and data (broadband).

VNL had entered into a MoU with the USOF in September 2009, and has successfully completed the Pilot Project for demonstration of the capabilities of its Rural Mobile GSM Solution in Alwar District of Rajasthan, India, in association with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL).

According to the USOF, the VNL system successfully demonstrated the following salient features:

  • Low Power consumption system
  • Outdoor tower /Pole mountable Rural and Village BTS sites operating exclusively on solar energy
  • Environmental friendliness
  • Distributed capacity, coverage and connectivity architecture
  • Integrated Backhaul for Point-to-point and Point-to-Multipoint BTS connectivity
  • Wi-Fi broadband capabilities

The USO certificate was awarded following a year long deployment of VNL’s solar-powered, zero OPEX GSM system developed specifically for remote rural areas where there is little or no electricity and ARPUs are less than $2-3 a month.

VNL’s zero opex network solution was used to provide mobile services to around 30 villages in Alwar District, Rajasthan, across an area of 200 square kilometers, not covered by BSNL’s existing network. It was tested by a team comprising officers of the Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC), Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) and USOF.

Rajiv Mehrotra, Chairman & CEO of VNL said, “As an Indian company involved in innovation and manufacturing of high tech telecom infrastructure solutions, we are proud to receive this Certificate from USO. VNL is on a mission to connect the unconnected using sustainable models and we are delighted with the results in Rajasthan. We are grateful to the Government of India, USOF and BSNL, for encouraging us to demonstrate the capabilities of our rural GSM and broadband solution”.

VNL’s pioneering work has been widely praised; In 2010, it was named as a Technology Pioneer by The World Economic Forum ( and the third most innovative company – and the most innovative telecoms company – in the world in the Wall Street Journal’s annual Technology Innovation Awards, 2009.  VNL was selected as a 2009 Top Pick and named as a company to watch in the wireless infrastructure market by Light Reading, a specialist telecoms analyst and publishing house. VNL also won the “best technology foresight” category at the World Communications Awards and came second in the “Green Network Hardware and Infrastructure” category at the CTIA Wireless E-Tech Awards.

VNL equipment is also deployed in networks in South Asia, Africa, Central and South America.

About VNL (
For years, operators and GSM equipment vendors have struggled with the same problem: Traditional telecom equipment is not designed for the unique challenges posed by remote rural areas. It costs too much, is too expensive to run, uses too much power and is too difficult to deploy (especially in areas with no electricity, poor roads and a lack of trained engineers).

VNL has spent the last six years re-engineering GSM to overcome these challenges. The result is WorldGSMTM – the world’s first truly environmentally sustainable voice and data network.


  • Zero Opex – made possible by major reductions in power consumption; allowing for the use of solar power as the single energy source. No diesel generators are required.
  • Low Capex – priced at less than traditional GSM base stations -so that it’s profitable even at very low population densities and ARPU levels.
  • Rural-Optimised and easy to transport – compact and rugged; can even be transported on bullock carts.
  • Self-Deploying and near-zero maintenance – a village base station can be installed in hours by unskilled persons
  • Solar Powered – needs only 50 – 150 W per base station compared to the 3000 W required for traditional GSM.

VNL is a member of the Shyam group of companies – India’s leading diversified telecommunications group (

For more information go to or contact:
VNL’s International PR Rep. Bridget Fishleigh Call : +44 7946 342 903
E mail: Skype: bridgetfishleigh
VNL’s India PR :Manoj Bhan Call : +91 99 999 66056
E Mail:

Emerging Energy and Air Pollution Crisis for Indian Rural GSM Sites 14 Feb, 2010

A study of critical power and fuel dependencies for Indian GSM site solutions

Impact of Mobile Telephony on Rural Marketing 25 Feb, 2009

India’s overall economic growth has dramatically increased rural India’s purchasing power. Marketers are now looking at smart ways to reach the rural market. Some Indian companies have modified their offerings specifically for the needs of rural markets.

Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL) is a good example with successful rural marketing projects like ‘Project Shakti’ and ‘Operation Bharat’. The main emhasis of HLL’s strategy has been to focus on penetrating the market down the line and focusing on price point. Hindustan Lever relies heavily on its own company-organised media. These are promotional events organised by stockists.

Coca Cola India entered the rural market by introducing bottles priced at Rs. 5. The campaign was backed with ads featuring well-known actor Aamir Khan. During the Aamir Khan ad-campaign, they also used local language in advertising. A combination of TV, cinema and radio was used to increase the reach to rural consumers. Coca Cola have also used banners and posters, and tapped many local forms of entertainment. Because of the common lack of electricity and refrigerators in rural areas, Coca Cola provides low-cost ice boxes — a tin box for new outlets and thermocool box for seasonal outlets.

A thorough understanding of the rural consumer is a crucial key to rural marketing success. Rural marketeers also need to take the large diversity of customs and language into account. Ideas and techniques used in urban areas just won’t work for rural consumers.

Mobile telephony can better enable rural marketing in the following ways:

  1. Better understanding of the rural consumer – Marketers need to understand the psyche of the rural consumers and then act accordingly. Traditional broadcast media (television, radio etc.) is not interactive, which means you can’t get any inputs from the consumers. Mobile media can change this and help marketers in better understanding of the rural consumer. With the advent of rural telephony, market research companies can conduct telephonic surveys and interact directly with rural consumers.
  2. More effective marketing communication – This includes messages and related media used to communicate with the market. Television has made a great impact and a large audience has been exposed to this medium. But since TV programmes are also produced for the urban population, marketers have to make a choice between rural and urban. With the advent of mobile telephony in rural markets, marketers can use this channel to provide customized communication directly to their target markets. One example solution is to send voice-SMS in the regional language.

Clearly there are many advantages to marketers if the mobile telephone density increases in rural India. With VNL’s solar powered GSM system – WorldGSM™ – mobile operators can finally provide rural mobile telephony services to India’s villages. This will in turn will enable better rural marketing specifically designed for rural consumers.

Further reading:

The Rural Makeover 29 Jan, 2009

Urbanization is a subjective concept and has a different meaning in every individual’s mind; but what remains common is the idea that urbanization defines a change in the way people think, live, and interact.

All those of you who have studied Sociology must be well aware of how urbanization is changing the rural landscape, as the latter expands to merge into urban areas. What is more interesting is the ‘city lifestyle’ which is redefining the way rural folks live.

I’d like to look at the business side first – with SEZs (Special Economic Zones) being set up across the remote regions in the country, the rural population has not only been blessed with employment opportunities, but also higher wages and a better standard of living. A majority of the people who migrate from rural to urban areas do so for the job opportunities that cities have to offer. But with BPOs and manufacturing units setting up shop next door, the rural youth don’t seem to be complaining. In fact, the BPOs have started a new trend in rural India, one which prevailed in the metros, and then trickled down to the tier II and III cities – earning enough money not only to support family needs, but also to engage oneself in small indulgences. The income earned is also giving many the opportunity to study further with the money they save up.

The rural business story also has another side, where some of the biggest retail and FMCG brands have opened their chains in rural and remote areas, because as urban markets reach their peak, and begin to stabilize, rural India is on a high. As technology penetrates into the semi-urban and non-urban regions, and TV sets, PCs and mobile phones enter rural homes, there is an increase in the way that individuals and families are emulating the lifestyle of city people.

From a consumer’s perspective, people in rural India have enough reasons to smile; after all, they are the next billion users of every product and service that companies across sectors have to offer. The economic slowdown has accelerated this development, as even the biggest corporate houses are eyeing the domestic market. In all this, the telecom industry is one of the few that has already touched lives in rural India, mainly because it was one of the first sectors to realize the potential that the untapped rural market held.

Rural urbanization can not only ease the pressure of surplus labour in rural areas and change the way India lives, but it also curbs the flow of rural laborers into big cities and helps stimulate national economic development.

So, where is your next business venture headed?

Further reading:

Making Entrepreneurship a Rural Affair 18 Nov, 2008

With entrepreneurship penetrating every sector of the Indian market, rural India is not far behind.

In fact, the government, NGOs and the private sector unanimously agree that rural entrepreneurship = rural development. For the government and the NGOs, this is possibly the best way to uplift the rural community, and for the corporates, it provides value addition by giving them the opportunity to reach into remote areas.

There are a number of platforms in the urban areas that have a positive impact on the entrepreneurial environment – there are investors who are looking out for that one great idea that deserves their money; and there are networking events, where various entrepreneurs come together to understand various business models, and to discuss their own. A quick glance at the rural market, in comparison, shows that though entrepreneurship is headed in the right direction, there is still a long way to go.

The most critical factor in this context is the availability of viable and sustainable investment opportunities, and the lack of communication facilities in remote areas. The most common businesses that are initiated are those that are started by external groups, and entail textile production, agri-tourism, small retail businesses, craftsmanship etc. However, even though the NGOs and government bodies have collaborated to establish self-help groups to alleviate rural poverty, the lack of confidence amongst most of the rural population has proved to be a deterrent to the idea of innovative rural entrepreneurship.

Some of the main issues that the rural community faces while setting up their unique businesses include lack of knowledge about profit yielding industries, and of access to capital. Limited knowledge and experience about the resources available to build their business has also stopped the already apprehensive rural community to embrace the spirit of entrepreneurship.

I’d like to give a couple of examples of successful rural entrepreneurship – one that is led by Unilever, and the other which is a self-driven initiative by an individual in Tamil Nadu. Unilever connects self-help groups with business opportunities through Project Shakti. It specifically gives the women groups a chance to become small-scale sellers of its products, wherein each entrepreneur buys a small stock of items that are then sold direct to consumers in their homes. In association with the local district authorities, Unilever also provides free training on the basics of business management and sales. Piloted in 2002, Project Shakti saw immense popularity with more than 45,000 entrepreneurs covering 3 million homes in 100,000 villages in 15 states in India.

The other interesting instance is about a rural entrepreneur: T. Mariappan, a banana grower in a village close to Tiruchi, who designed a banana dehydrator by trial and error method, to produce a type of sweet from the fruit. Impressed by what Mr. Mariappan had to offer, the Indian Overseas Bank has sanctioned Rs. 11 lakh for his project. Currently marketing the produce in 400-kg packs and in sachets, the rural entrepreneur’s future plan is to use a solar energy-operated dehydrator for large-scale production.

According to a report by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on entrepreneurship;

“From the perspective of the process of entrepreneurship, whether the location is urban, semi-rural or rural, is not important in itself. For example, the needs of a would be entrepreneur or an existing small business do not differ much from those in an urban area. To realise their entrepreneurial ideas or to grow and sustain in business, they all need access to capital, labour, markets and good management skills. What differs is the availability of markets for other inputs.”

And it is exactly this gap that needs to be filled if the rural entrepreneurs are to walk shoulder-to-shoulder with urban entrepreneurs.

Further reading:

Micro Finance, Macro Growth 22 Oct, 2008

With spirits down and low in urban areas (largely because they have reached a saturation point, and partly due to the credit crunch), the next phase of development in India will come from the tier II cities and the rural parts of the country.

Whether it’s the retail, banking or telecom sector, everyone has their eyes glued on the next billion users of their facilities and services.

What is fueling this phenomenal growth? Micro finance. Two simple words that promise to change the rural landscape.

Let’s begin with telecom itself, where close to 60% growth is expected from rural India. By collaborating with micro finance institutions (MFIs), telecom operators, and equipment and handset manufacturers are helping benefit the self employed population in Indian villages. Anytime, anywhere connectivity now enables rural entrepreneurs to deliver their services on call.

More specifically, rural entrepreneurs have chosen to use credit provided by MFIs to start their own ventures or to become associated with established corporates that aim to reach the rural hinterland through local partnerships.

In the last couple of years, banks such as ICICI have also made headlines for reaching out to rural customers through its customized loan portfolio. Microfinance is seen as a mutually profitable venture that provides new business opportunities for banks, and opens up new avenues of opportunities for the rural banking customer. For example, the Financial Information Network and Operations (FINO), in association with the World Bank, is expected to run pilot projects with microfinance institutions, banks and government agencies to make use of IT in rural banking.

To ensure that microfinance is successfully implemented, it is also important for rural bankers to understand its true role. In fact, in Philippines, there are foreign-funded programs that aim to teach the rural bankers how to effectively design their microbanking-related business.

Anticipating the retail boom in the country, various agri-business consultancies and big names in the retail sector have opened the doors to microfinancing and are inviting people from rural regions to join them in taking the business of retail to hinterland. Apparently, Reliance Retail is eyeing partnerships with existing MFIs as part of its supply chain with rural and semi-urban markets. Retail biggie Bharti is also believed to have shown interest in exploring the MFI route for supporting the retail supply chain, contract farming operations and dairy sourcing.

There are as many opportunities in the rural sector, as there are industries in our country. With external factors such as the sub-prime crisis affecting our bread and butter, perhaps focusing on our internal strengths and opportunities is a good option!

Further reading: