Friday, January 02, 2009

Dream Desi Start Ups

It is always a delight to read about any Indian start-up that is not a desi-fied clone of a successful Western idea with no distinguishing unique local signature. Unfortunately, such delights are few and far between and often centered around ideas than are interesting rather than path-breaking in the India-specific context.

I have some pipe dreams that I would love to see come true with all the start-up frenzy back home. Education is one area where we could stand to use some major innovation and overhauling. What might it take for instance, for kids to have access to differentiated and personalized curriculum that they could work on at their own pace from the comfort of their homes. While this would not address the need to bring literacy to the poorest sections of society, it would certainly work for the large numbers of urban kids who do have the ability to be connected and online.

This combined with the ability to take nationally recognized tests at different grade levels whenever they are ready would make learning more fun and rewarding than instruction in over-crowded classrooms by largely uninspiring teachers teaching to a syllabus that does precious little to kindle independent thinking or creativity.

Besides, getting to school and back home from there, in any of the larger Indian cities is a commute arduous enough to drain most of a kid's energy. Why not give them a better option and allow them to enjoy a real childhood. It would likely free up some of their time that they can use to pursue non-academic passions.

The other area in Indian public life that 'teh internets' could really help is with shaking the middle-class out of it's reluctance to participate in the political process. Each time I read about the many millions who voted their preference for one Indian Idol or such like over the others via SMS, I wonder what it might take to use the same devise to get people to cast their vote on election day or better still make it glamorous to run for office. If all the educated youth and jaded middle-aged middle-class people in India had anywhere near the same enthusiasm for exercising their franchise, we might have elected representatives who actually speak for the people who voted them in.

Sure, the devil is in the details and it it would take some serious technology and entrepreneurial chops along with boatloads of Indian-system savvy to get any of this to work. It is child's play in comparison to come up with a dating, shop-bot, video-sharing, business-networking site. All you have to do is copy and never mind that your offering has no redeeming qualities to make up for lack of originality. Not so with going into the belly of the beast, wading to through bottom-less bureaucratic cesspools and emerging victoriously from it all. That is the real deal.

The last idea is much more trivial. There is a slew of matrimonial sites and each is the copy of a previous successful act. The worst offender is probably SecondShaadi with its utterly shameless knock-off name and appearance. None of them address the big void in this segment - namely the ability to authenticate in degrees and the ability to track and report scammers.

Two strangers meeting online may very well hesitate to share personal information with each other.It makes good sense for the site brokering the connection between the two to be able to confirm that basic information is verified and available for release on a gave and take basis. A fully searchable bad-egg database could well be a killer-app in the matri-site space.


Kiran said...

Hi Heartcrossings,

Landed here from DesiPundit.

I agree with your views regarding the education space. Any idea which would help reduce the pressure on the urban kids and help them have a childhood is welcome!

I also share your curiosity regarding people participating in the millions in vote-based TV shows .. but not in elections! I suppose it might be possible to motivate them to go out and vote.

However, getting people to run for elections might be a much taller ask. Its a chicken-and-egg: until the rot in political circles exists, the well-meaning middle-class will not want to participate; however we need some reform (from the well-meaning middle class) to stem the rot in the first place!

I liked your idea about the matrimonial sites too. background verification checks are really the need of the hour for such sites since its very easy to misuse them.

workhard said...

education for kids has become a problem, as i see it, the first thing is something has to be done with their course books, i feel bad because the bag weighs more then their own weight, so online education is definitely a thumbs up. and im sure most parents will agree with it.

BPO work from home