What has been the state of readiness for e-governance projects? What is the next stage?
There was a time when the state and central governments were building infrastructure. The last state development center is just getting covered. The last state wide-area network is being completed in Rajasthan.
Until a year or so, the public had no visibility of e-governance projects. But now people are able to see the value that is being added through e-governance. For instance, look at projects like Passport Seva Kendras, Public Distribution System, Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS). These are all running on a backbone for e-governance projects. Hence, now there is a public sentiment that is being built around these projects.
Since it is moving from pure-play infrastructure to a value-added space, this has attracted the interest of a larger set of players. There are people who want to develop solutions or do systems integration, in a PPP (public-private partnership) mode. That includes us.
Can you specify in definite terms what is the opportunity for the domestic IT industry?
A typical mission mode project would take at least two and a half years. Over the next 4-5 years, I see a Rs 45,000 to Rs 50,000 crore opportunity. And if you include Aerospace and Defense, then the opportunity increases further.
What are the e-governance projects that ITC is pursuing?
We have been an empanelled vendor for UID. We have also been bidding for projects such as Public Distribution System and state area-wide network. And we are doing projects for the Government of West Bengal. This is for the digitization of provident fund for the unorganized sector or worker. We have developed a complete web-based solution. And we are doing a product lifecycle management project in the Defense sector.
What happened to your bid for the UID project? And NPR?
We got empanelled as a vendor for UID. But we did a study of the SLAs and the delivery parameters (type of biometric scan, accuracy of the scan, etc). The UID work cannot be contracted by the vendor. Putting all this in perspective we arrived at a particular costing. When the tenders came out and the initial contracts were awarded — they were awarded at a price that we felt was not possible for us to deliver, along with maintaining the quality. ITC as an organization will not compromise on the quality. We have put in our bid for empanelment for NPR.
Your take on mobile technology for financial inclusion?
Some public sector banks are doing brilliant work in this area, and we have been in touch with these banks. They are trying to merge the NREGA and the financial inclusion systems together, and talking about NREGA payments through mobile banking. There are lots of partnerships involved in these kind of projects and we provide the IT solution or the backbone.
What’s the potential of the mobility platform? Is it being untapped?
Around the world people talk about fiber optic cable for the last mile. The last mile connectivity in India will be enabled through mobile networks. The potential is huge. But the trick is to have a solution for the bottom of the pyramid. We have to co-create solutions (with the market). The consumer knows exactly what he wants. So you can’t create a product first and then a market. We have a mobility center of excellence and are looking into unique solutions. But we are also looking at bringing banking to the consumer through other mediums, like cable TV or satellite TV connections.