Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, May 23, 1997
Betting on the Internet, PPP aims high
DATE: 23-05-97 :: PAGE : 07 :: COL.: b
CHENNAI, May 22
BETTING on the Internet to level the playing field, a small Chennai-based firm is setting its sights high. The company, Plans Proposals & Projects (PPP), run by three brothers (who also constitute its entire staff), is looking to appoint distributors worldwide for a software product it has developed using the Java programming language. The software, PPPshar, enables several PC users to simultaneously access the Internet using a single dial- up connection.
According to Mr. Parameshwar Babu, the product's chief developer and the technical expert in the trio, PPPshar could be used to hook up all the PCs (running Windows 95 and a standard Web brows er software) in a corporate network to the Internet using a single-modem and a single phone connection. The software, priced at Rs. 5,000 per terminal (on the user network), needs to be loaded only on the machine connected to the modem. It can also be customised based on the user's specific requirements.
PPPshar can be used with a dial-up TCP/IP Internet connection and there is no need for a permanent Internet Protocol (IP) address as in the case of leased line connections. Provided the product performs as claimed, the savings derivable from the software are quite obvious for any organisation which wants to provide multi ple Net connections to its members: VSNL, currently the sole Internet Service Provider (ISP) in India, charges about Rs. 10 lakhs annually for a high speed (64 kbps kilo bits per second) leased line connection compared to Rs. 15,000 for a dial-up TCP/IP account (offering a maximum speed of 28.8 kbps).
Mr. Babu says that PPPshar would ensure that the speeds of the individual terminals in the network do not suffer when multiple users are logged on to the Net. According to him, the software keeps track of the ``idle time'' commonly encountered while surfing the Web (that is, while locating and loading Web pages) and divides this time among the different terminals.
``In any case, the individual speeds available to seven terminals simultaneously connected through a 28.8 kbps modem compares favourably with 16 users splitting up a 64 kbps leased line between them,'' he says.
According to Mr. Babu, PPPshar can also be used by system manag ers to selectively control access to certain types of information on the Net. For example, for a Chennai-based medical college-cum- hospital, PPP has customised the software to ensure that Web sites relevant to medicine can be accessed by the individual users.
The company is targeting the product at corporates and education al institutions. It has already booked orders to install PPPshar, which was released on April 14, at five Chennai-based firms, including Grundig Electronics (India), the Indian subsidiary of the German consumer electronics giant.
The brothers point out that the product is also ideal for entre preneurs wanting to set up ``cybercafes'' (in which visitors can access the Internet by paying a per hour fee) at a low capital investment. ``There are not too many companies in the country who can afford to set up cybercafes using leased lines as the costs are too high. With PPPshar even small companies with a few PCs can afford to get into this business,'' points out Mr. Babu.
In fact, one of the first customers for PPPshar is the Chennai- based Quality Business Management (QBM), a private company pro viding electronic desktop publishing, Public Call Office and E- mail services at a prominent business location in the city. Using PPPshar, QBM has set up a `Cyber Circle' in the same facility by hooking up five PCs to the Net to provide Internet-related infor mation services.
A dozen Chennai-based firms and an equal number from the other metros have approached PPP for signing up as distributors for the product. According to Mr. Babu, five companies from other coun tries have also evinced interest based on the information they had obtained from the company's Web site (bjornbern.com)
According to the brothers, Grundig (India) officials are so impressed with the product that they had offered to help the company market it in Germany and other parts of the world. ``In fact, one of the directors in the parent company was so impressed with the product that he said we should set up shop in Germany rather than continuing here,'' says Mr. B.Shrinivas, the eldest among the three.
As for competition from similar products from overseas companies, Mr. Babu says he is aware of just one _ `WebShare' from Canada- based Protec Microsystems Inc. However, he points out that Web Share allows simultaneous shared Internet access for only three PCs.
The company is currently working on another Java-based software, PPPftp, which is a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) software for uploading and downloading information from the Net. According to Mr. Babu, an important feature of this software, not available to other FTP client software, is the ability to resume interrupted file transfers. ``This enables users to download large software from the Internet. Even if the line gets disconnected in between, PPPftp will resume from where it left off during the last at tempt,'' he says.
Apart from product development, PPP also designs and hosts Web pages for clients on its Web site. The company's Web site at tracts visitors by posting several free resources _ a trade bulletin board, a matrimonial service, a ``herbal petrol'' forum (which discusses the Ramar Pillai episode), a law forum for NRIs investing in India and a Web forum for Internet users in Chennai.
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