|Topic:||The ‘Raj’ of technology|
|Organisation:||Coral Telecom Limited|
Rajesh Tuli is the President and founder of Coral Telecom Limited, a designer, developer and provider of voice, video and data switching products and solutions. Mr Tuli held various managerial posts in the corporate world including at Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd, at Usha Electronics, at Graphics India Ltd and the Modi group. Rajesh Tuli graduated with an MBA from Punjab University.
Technology, especially IP-based communications are breaking down the barriers that have long impeded the flow of goods, services and information and concentrated their production and the creation of wealth in relatively few regions. The seamless distribution of knowledge spreads economic opportunity, for example through outsourcing, and higher living standards. Seamless communication facilitates businesses in many ways. It is helping to obliterate distinctions between products and services; brands and nationalities, at least as they exist today, are starting to gradually disappear.
‘Rama’ is a Hindu God and Ram Raj his rule, or Raj, implies perfect rule, a utopian ideal that technology can help achieve. The world we live in is becoming increasingly simple, seamless and equitable. Since the fall of the Berlin wall, barriers have been going down, with and, more often, without the active consent of citizens and oblique governments. Technology and the widespread availability of knowledge have removed barriers and made them ever more difficult to guard effectively. Governments and local authorities often have great difficulty maintaining barriers in a seamless world. This sounds strange; nonetheless, it is true. Information flow across geographical locations and political boundaries has become seamless. IP has become the omnipresent highway. IP is such a widespread, interlaced maverick that is difficult to patrol and police the activity on it. On the one hand, it can add to the headache of already overburdened law enforcement agencies and on the other hand it ensures seamless distribution of knowledge and information around the globe. The equitable distribution of information and knowledge is accompanied by the spread of wealth and living standards. By choice or otherwise, trade barriers have come down and sharp boundaries replaced by diffuse partitions. In a seamless world where services can be rendered over the IP cloud, how can one answer questions like: What is the point of sale? Who is the buyer? and When does the title to goods change from the seller to the buyer? The answers to such questions are increasingly hazy, making it much more complex to administer laws or even decide what law is applicable. In this seamless world, payments are completed in seconds after swiping a plastic card and transmitting the payment data to a payment gateway; today’s seamless plastic currency transactions are close to universal around the world. IP facilitates e-Learning, tele-medicine, distant working, tele-conferencing and even e-Governance eliminating the need to go to a distant location to obtain these services. Outsourcing of jobs to a distant location or a country is a prime example of people becoming global citizens with freedom to work for any country of their choice without even having to move to an alien land with alien culture and strange people. Nowadays, you make a telephone call or browse the net to enrich yourself with the immense knowledge available on the IP cloud or even use the knowledge to create wealth, to get rich. Who pays for the knowledge? Perhaps it is someone whose advertisement you were forced to watch or hear before or during this activity and which you tried to ignore. So who is the beneficiary of the services? Who is paying for them? Since traditional concepts of buyer and seller are disappearing, a service you use in your part of the world might well be paid for by an enterprise – possibly one previously unknown to you – situated anywhere else in the world. The world will soon be full of benevolent companies, and you may not have to buy a laptop, software or storage media. Given the dramatic drop in prices of ICT-related equipment, it might soon be economically worthwhile for a company on the other side of the globe to pay for the equipment you use just to guarantee that you see their advertisements and buy their products. The distinction between products and services is starting to disappear as well. Instead of the traditional capital and labour intensive process of setting up an office telecom network, businesses are increasingly turning to services that provide, set up, maintain and upgrade the equipment to meet their present and future requirements. This sort of service is more and more often replacing product purchases. In the future, company balance sheets will be far lighter, with very few physical assets, as products and services seamlessly displace one another. Ownership of certain products, services and knowledge will disappear in many cases as open source products become increasingly popular. A great deal of software is available free from ‘open sources’. LINUX, a common example, is fast catching on as a preferred operating system. Open source software embedded in hardware will make IPR (intellectual property rights) ownership issues more complex. In general, hybrid products with open source inputs make product ownership issues extremely complex and the buyer would be more confused than ever before. How does one determine what percentage of the product should be paid for, and how much to pay for it, if the open source components, by definition, are free? Free, open source software is already available – or will soon be – for a variety of applications such as ERP, accounting, CRM, and other software for specialized applications. In this sort of market, barriers will come down, product and service distinctions will fade away and the buyer/user and the producer are likely to have – at best – a virtual relationship to each other. Customers will pay for the services they need instead of equipment, so services will be the prime drivers of business in the future. Many products will be sold almost exclusively to service providers and rarely to the final users. As technology lifecycles become shorter, it becomes increasingly difficult to choose technologies that will efficiently serve a company’s needs and provide a good return on investment throughout their useful life – that is before they become obsolescent. Accordingly, customers will pay providers for a service – with service level guarantees that include the ‘boxes’ – rather than for the boxes themselves. In future years, providers will sell guaranteed levels of service and boxes may become just another tool to leverage their business. Brands and nationalities, in the manner they exist today, might gradually disappear. Countries like India that are traditionally lower down the value chain might, for example, acquire the ownership of internationally recognised brands. Many goods and services are increasingly produced or performed wherever in the world the best cost/benefit ratio is found. As a consequence, globalised production and supply chains will become more common, brand will become flags of convenience tied not to a country, but to a global supply chain, and the production and distribution of wealth will become ever flatter in a seamless worldwide marketplace. India and China will do well in this seamless market owing to the great advantages their demographic profile offers; they may well end up inverting the value pyramid. Definitions and relationships of all sorts are slipping as seamless interactions gain ground. Gender-based traditions are being swiftly transformed; marriage certificates will soon specify names of ‘partner one’ and ‘partner two’ rather than the gender-based roles of husband and wife. Such social seamlessness is unprecedented and is already re-defining relationships and behaviour patterns in many parts of the world. Flat rates and the disappearance of interconnect charges and arbitrage for international voice and data carriage are facilitating seamless communications. The Internet, since its birth, has had no such barriers or charges; now voice is beginning to follow the same path. The seamless flow of communications helps create an environment that encourages business and stimulates the free flow of goods and services across political and man-made boundaries. When technology and data networking reign supreme, overshadowing political and nationalistic boundaries, and information and knowledge flow seamlessly, the distribution of wealth and well-being will grow and the world will be a far better place to live in. This will be close to being a Ram Raj – or rather, a Raj of technology.