THE NANDA BROTHERS - Indian Entrepreneurs |
By Bill Oxner
Suchit and Anish Nanda are two young brothers in Bombay, India. At ages 26 and 24, they are digital pioneers of the Asian sub-continent.
The Nandas created the first local BBS (bulletin board system) in India in 1992. They were still living with their parents and had to share the family's telephone line. During the day the line was used for voice calls. At night it became the line used for modem phone calls to their Live Wire BBS.
There were many people who argued that a BBS would never succeed in India. Indian telephone lines were said to be of too poor quality to handle data transfers, people would not want to "type" messages when they could simply call on the telephone and that no one would be willing to pay for such services. The Nandas took these as challenges to be overcome. Suchit says, "Maybe this was what drove us to do all this, to at least prove that they were all wrong and that this was a viable concept."
The Nandas' youthful enthusiasm and dedication was rewarded. Today, their BBS has 10 telephone lines and about 1,000 paying subscribers. The BBS has an section where users can find daily stock quotations from the Bombay and National stock exchanges - a service that has also made their system popular for callers outside of India. The BBS idea is spreading throughout India and there are now more than 50 systems in operation.
Recent events have demonstrated the power of such local BBS's. The city government of Bombay moved in to demolish a slum in the central city, although residents and a social action group claimed it was a legal settlement. A social worker posted a message on the BBS asking for help. Within 48 hours, the city agency received 25 fax messages from housing rights organizations throughout India and from as far away as Thailand protesting the action. Officials backed down and are now negotiating a compromise with residents of the area.
"So far, the electronic networks have been controlled by the exploiters," said Indian environmentalist Bittu Sehgal, who logs on to Live Wire everyday. "Now those combating them have access to quick information too. This makes the odds slightly more even."
Suchit has also been employed by the Canadian government to help set up BBS's and Internet sites throughout southeast Asia, as part of Canada's effort to help developing nations. This work has taken him to Sri Lanka, Nepal, Malaysia and other countries in the region.
From: Bill Oxner