The Upcycling Experts Who Bridge the Digital Divide
By Svetlana Lasrado | ENS | Published: 30th July 2014 08:39 AM |
BANGALORE: “India has an IT penetration of 9.5 per cent at a household level. This means that less than one person in every 10 households owns a computer. In China, the penetration is more than 30 per cent. For India as a country to progress further — it is important for everyone to have better access to computers,” says Mukund, a Bangalore-based IIM graduate. To bridge this digital divide, Mukund along with his friend Raghav founded ReNew IT, a company that aims to make computers affordable for everyone. Their game plan is to increase the number of high-quality, low-cost PCs, related parts and accessories and make them available to small businesses, students, NGOs and other users. They kicked off operations in 2009 by selling 50 computers. Now this organisation has grown into a sustainable model — they have sold over 10,000 computers till date and their aim is to touch at least a million lives within the next five years. Here’s an excerpt of an interview with Mukund about the early days at the company, their objectives and the way forward.
It all started…
After completing their masters, Mukund and Raghav started working at two different MNCs. During this time, they bumped into a friend Shiva Nanda, founder of Newport Computers which is an IT asset recovery and spares business. The operation model interested the duo. What Newport did was buy back used IT equipment and break it down into parts to supply spare parts to companies which do maintenance and support. Realising that how there were many Indians who had never even touched a computer, they tweaked the business model to suit the Indian context.
The business model
They mainly source computers from large MNCs who periodically upgrade their IT products and discard the old ones. These items are then refurbished at the state-of-the-art facility they have set up at Bommasandra, near Electronics City.
The first step once they procure the used computers is data removal. Mukund states, “We use a Department of Defense compliant data destruction software to ensure that all the data is completely removed.”
Then they test the functionality of the computers. The parts which are defective are replaced and then the computers are tested again. The prices start from `4,000.
The company caters to first time buyers who can’t afford new computers.
“When they come to us, they tell us, ‘Olle Computer kodi (give me a nice computer)’ and that’s it. Buying a computer is a big milestone for them — it is like buying a vehicle for the family. They come with their entire family. So our team educates them as to what would be the ideal configuration for them to purchase based on their needs and budget. ”
Working with NGOs
They also work very closely with many NGOs to assist them with their computer needs. “Most of them are doing amazing work but they are always crunched for finances,” Mukund opines. One of the NGOs they support is AMBA which trains mentally challenged individuals, so that they can earn a livelihood and live a dignified life. “Whenever anyone from our office visits AMBA, the people are just excited. The kind of appreciation that we get from the students is really heart-warming.”
Their aim is to scale up rapidly. Mukund says, “Most of the schools currently don’t have access to computers. We want to help more schools get access to affordable computers. We also want to have our presence in multiple locations in the country through which we can provide quality after sales support to our customers. We have started offices in Hyderabad and Mumbai this year.”