The Patriach of Rajasthan IT Industry (Arvind Modi- Bits & Bytes)

44The journey of this patriarch of Rajasthan IT industry started way back in Dec 1983. It was an era when computers were still a distant dream.  I would like to introduce here Mr. Arvind Modi, the initiator of hardware industry in Rajasthan. When asked about the initial days, he says, “Those days’ people were not even aware of what computers were and what it could do for them. If I am not wrong, I was amongst the first few 10-15 dealers in entire northern India who were into computer hardware business. Obviously it was a tough task convincing my peers that IT was a commercially viable business.

I started with personal computers with a brand called EIKO. EIKO was a very basic and crude personal computer (CPU) wherein we used a cassette player as data storage device and a TV as a monitor!!”

Given the meagre awareness about computers, survival would have been difficult. When asked about the survival methods that he adopted, he says, “We were selling calculators,

Then in the year in 1987, Mr. Modi came across a game changing idea. He launched a software related to astrology by the name of Computer Pundit. He says, “Astrology was something people were aware of, it offered an easy way to connect with masses. Our software which we had developed in English, Hindi & Gujrati was a hit all over India. This is when profitability started happening.”telephone diallers & electronic typewriters  to meet our expenses. Also that time Asian games were about to start, and dema

nd for colour TVs had increased, so in order to survive, we started selling TVs also. That gave us decent income to keep us going.”

In 1991, when the government announced its liberalisation policy, there was a sudden surge in demand for IT products. This resulted in lowering of prices, and making the products affordable. Talking about this phase, he says, “With liberalisation, sales went into auto mode. During this time, many people in Jaipur entered IT business.  However there are very few people from that era who are still going strong. After few years many people shut their shops as they were lacking long term vision. I feel for survival one needs to always think 2 steps ahead.”

 

He further adds, “by the year 97-98 margins started decreasing in box-moving products. This is when we decided to shift our focus from box moving to value addition products and solutions. Internet had just been launched in the

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He further adds, “Somewhere around this time we started taking up government projects, we did mainly networking solutions projects.” Talking about his expectations from government, he says, “Government is working towards digitisation. E-commerce, be it in tourism, banks or railways, is doing good for public at large. Schemes for offering free tablet are good. As students once get used to working on mobile devices will become our prospective customers. Yes there are still some lacunas when it comes to IT infrastructure. Faster internet bandwith should be provided at much lower rate. Certain more incentives should be offered so as to make manufacturing in India a more viable option.” Indian market so there was huge demand for modems and routers. We therefore decided to focus on networking products and solutions. By 2002, we were totally out of box moving market. “

Talking about the present scenario, there is a retail buzz in market. There are talks that retail will be new face of IT Industry. On this Mr Modi says, “I am not overly gaga on retail. I would take a more cautious approach as there are lots of challenges specially if you do not own the property and are renting it out. The cost of running a retail store is high and increases every year; viability is difficult for small standalone stores. Only the large format chain stores will survive. ”

We switch our gears now to the expectations with RCTA. With the new EBM formed, I felt it was an obvious thing to ask.  Mr Modi gets into a thinking mode and says, “I feel that RCTA is doing fine. Owing to their efforts in the past few years, some discipline has been induced amongst the partners. Cases of forgery, cheating have reduced to a great extent. Even the Microsoft issue was handled well. Things are moving in the right direction.”

When asked about the branding and marketing activities undertaken by the company, he says, “Earlier we invested a lot on creating a brand for ourselves. We were new and awareness was less. So yes we invested. But we always kept in mind that we have to promote ourselves. Even in our visiting cards, only our name is mentioned, no vendor’s name is mentioned. This helped us to create our own identity and also maintain it.  Now since the margins are not there we do not spend on marketing. We do only occasional marketing activity now.”

When asked to summarise his journey till now in Rajasthan IT industry, he says, “I would call the period between 83-87 as most challenging as even making the ends meet was difficult. From 87 to 91 it was slow but steady. Then from 91 onwards the market really took off as a result of the liberalisation policy. Things looked really good till the year 2000 when the dot.com bubble busted. By this time the competition had increased and margins were under pressure. After 2000 it was the phase of consolidation and re-alignment (from box moving to value addition).  I feel convergent products will be next big thing.”

Indeed Mr Arvind Modi is a visionary in real sense. He has always stayed ahead of times and has a streak for risk taking. He loves taking the unchartered territory. It was owing to his conviction only that he has survived the tough period of early 80s and Y2K era.  Kudos to the never say die attitude of Mr. Arvind Modi.

Shweta Sharma – IT VOICE

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