Mumbai: Imagine a world in which information flows seamlessly between a constellation of digital resources and devices, cutting across interaction modes, network environments and devices.
Imagine, further, that convergence reaches a stage where information from various applications can be accessed over just one device, be it the cellphone, email, fax or even the good, old Alexander Graham Bell invention.
This might well be the way of a not-too-far-off-tomorrow in India and other parts of the world if a certain two-year-old Ahmedabad-based convergence company, Net4Nuts (www.net4nuts.com), has its way.
The innovative company has perfected the technology to enable information to flow across various devices, with Net4Nuts chief executive officer Chirag Patel and Amol Patel, his partner, naming the cool tool Avtaar.
''Avtaar is the first of its kind convergence tool in the world. We have already applied for a patent for this product in the US as there is no product available in the international market which can directly compete with Avatar today,'' says Chirag Patel.
Patel, who calls himself the Chief Nut of the company, adds: ''In today's world, information lies fragmented across various applications, like the mobile phone, PDA (personal digital assistant), Internet websites and databases.
''If all the relevant information required by a particular user is provided to him/her in one snapshot, without the user having to tediously browse all the sites and/or wait for voice calls, either on the cell phone or the landline, and data calls, which might take the form of an SMS, it could revolutionise the way we communicate with our customers, suppliers, employees, friends and families.
''This convergence is called universal resource management (URM), and Avtaar is the enabling device, which performs the task of integration of online services from different vendors. Using our proprietary technology, we can enable enterprises to make their wired information available over a variety of devices, without them incurring the massive costs involved in doing so.''
In simple terms, Avtaar is an information and content delivery mechanism, cutting across diverse platforms ranging from mobile phones and the Internet to interactive voice responders (IVR) and fax machines.
Once Internet service providers (ISPs), wireless service providers (WSPs) or basic telephone service providers (TSPs) take recourse to Avtaar, they can provide convergence services of the kind described above as a value-added service at a very reasonable cost.
''No matter what device you use and where you are, our product, Avtaar, will enable information to flow seamlessly between a constellation of digital resources and devices, cutting across interaction modes, network environments and devices,'' assures Patel.
Unfortunately, in spite of having a product as unique and useful as Avtaar, it has not created much excitement in India. Agrees Patel: ''As of now, our focus is to market this product outside India and once it becomes popular abroad, then we will market it here aggressively.
''Knowing Indians, the product will be better received if service providers here are told that it is already being used in the West and that countries like the US have certified it. In fact, when we tell potential customers that the first customer for Avtaar is the US-based Converge Labs, which has licensed four components to us, including emails, weather information and stock portfolios, they become more receptive.''
Accordingly, Net4Nuts has identified the South East Asian countries for focussed attention. It has entered into alliances with companies like Jaring, Indonet and KSC, which are ISPs based in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, respectively.
These countries have over 5 lakh Internet users each. Net4Nuts is also in the final stages of negotiations with some cellular operators in this region. Moreover, the company is in an advanced stage of discussions in the UAE and Bahrain. In India, talks are on with Hutchison (Orange), BPL Mobile and Satyam.
''I am convinced that once the technology is adopted abroad in a big way, Indian service providers will make a beeline for Avtaar. Then the flow of information, as we know it as of now, will change drastically,'' says Vishnu Varhsney, managing director, Gujarat Venture Finance, which has invested Rs 4 crore in Net4Nuts out of its corpus of Rs 19 crore for the Gujarat IT Fund, which is its fourth fund.
''Net4Nuts is a pure-play technology company established in June 2000, concentrating on enabling integration among online services. The company is technologically very sound and it is only a matter of time before the tremendous potential of Avtaar is realised by various cyber players,'' says Varshney, who has also been instrumental in getting together a strong advisory board for Net4Nuts, which functions as its think-tank.
Thanks to Varshney and his belief in start-up IT ventures, Net4Nuts managed to have a paid-up capital of about $1 million and is now looking for a fresh round of funds, preferably from yet another venture capitalist. And it also expecting to close FY 2002-03 with a profit of Rs 10 lakh.
Net4Nuts has identified technology licensing, revenue sharing from value-added services, customised personalisation, software development and subscription fees as its main revenue streams. The strategy for alliances, both in India and in overseas markets, is to make inroads through value-partnering.
Apart from focusing on overseas markets, Net4Nuts plans to make inroads within India where the potential is enormous as a vast populace still remains untapped as far as cyber services are concerned. Till such time sceptical vendors realise the worth of a pioneering product like Avtaar, wait and watch the cyberspace.