Those who know me know that I’ve had a slight obsession with India lately. There are various reasons for that, but the main one I believe is the inmense potential there is to make fanstatic ICT4D projects that could affect millions of people.

Why?

1. India has one of the most impressive cell phone penetration rates in the world

2. The techie knowledge and desire already exists…. and the shift is begining to go from back-end support for western companies to front-end entrepeneurship and development. Why shouldn’t all the next start-ups come from this giant?

Thomas Friedman’s Sunday http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/opinion/sunday/friedman-indias-innovation-stimulus.html?_r=4 column focuses on exactly that.  He talks to the CEO of Ekgaon, one of these many start-ups whose main purpuse is not to earn money, but to make the world a better place.  I am copying it here in case you don’t have access to the NYT premium content. How that is an issue is a subject for another blog post.

Meet Vijay Pratap Singh Aditya, the C.E.O. of Ekgaon. His focus is Indian farmers, who make up half the population and constitute what he calls “an emerging market within an emerging market.” Ekgaon built a software program that runs on the cheapest cellphones and offers illiterate farmers a voice or text advisory program that tells them when is the best time to plant their crops, how to mix their fertilizers and pesticides, when to dispense them and how much water to add each day.

“India has to increase farm productivity,” explains Aditya, “but our farms are small, and advisers from the Agriculture Department can’t reach many of them. So they go for hearsay methods of planting, which leads to low productivity and soil desertification.” Using cloud computing, Ekgaon tailors its advice to each farmer’s specific soil, crop and weather conditions. Some 12,000 farmers are already subscribing ($5 for one year), and the plan is set to grow to 15 million in five years.

He also lists Forus Health, and iXiGO.com, a travel site geared to people of all income levels– whether its a cheap bus ticket from Chenai to Bangalore, or a first-class trip to Paris.  

Do you know of any other Indian start-up or tech companies that are bubbling up to take over the central arena? Should silicone valley be scared? Should social entrepeneurship be the leading drive of new tech companies, especially those conceived in developing nations?