Sify Technologies, a large Indian Internet service provider, has launched a suite of cloud-based applications targeting the large number of people in India who do not own computers or have access to the Internet.
Key to Sify's strategy are the 1,200 Sify-branded Internet cafés spread across the country. These cafés, called Sify e-ports, operate as franchisees and use the company's broadband connections for Internet access.
Sify plans to expand this base of cyber cafés by marketing a device to other café owners that will link them to the Sify cloud, enabling enable them to offer services from the cloud to their customers, said Natesh Mani, president of Sify's Consumer Infrastructure Business.
Mani did not give the technical details of the edge device, except to say that it included both software and hardware.
Sify is also launching a program that will allow people to purchase travel tickets, entertainment and educational services, as well as pay utility bills online without using their credit cards. Customers will instead pay in cash to the person running the cyber café, for services received through the new consumer cloud platform, called Sify mylife, he said.
The service is targeted at the large number of people who do not have credit cards or aren't comfortable making credit card payments online, Mani said.
A large number of people in India's cities and small towns do not own computers or have Internet access, and they turn to shared facilities like cyber cafés.
About 52 million urban Indians were active Internet users in September last year, according to a report released jointly by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), and research firm IMRB International. Active users are defined as those who used the Internet at least once a month. About 37 percent of these users accessed the Internet through cyber cafés, according to the report. The percentage of people who use cyber cafés is expected to be higher in rural areas.
Owners of cyber cafes are looking for revenue streams beyond just offering browsing facilities, Mani said. Browsing rates have gone down even as real estate prices are going up, he added.
Besides current tie-ups with travel, education, and utility companies, Sify also plans to partner with software companies and software developers to offer applications, storage, and other services through its consumer cloud.
There are a large number of infrequent users of applications such as word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and page layout software who would prefer to use the software in a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, rather than buy a license themselves, Mani said.
Sify also plans to offer the applications and other services on its consumer cloud to its broadband Internet customers, who would typically own a computer besides the connectivity. The company currently has about 100,000 broadband customers.