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BW Businessworld

“My Father Couldn't Have Done In India What He Did With Bose Corp In US"

Says Vanu Bose, son of legendary Dr Amar Gopal Bose. Moving beyond Bose Corporation and acoustics, Vanu is experimenting with infrastructure. His company Vanu Inc focuses on technological innovation to enable cellular coverage in areas that cannot be profitably covered. Excerpts of Vanu Bose’s interview with BW Businessworld

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Vanu Inc:
If you are a small guy competing with a big guy then you have to do what they either cant or wont. This is called competing in non-consumption. So what is non-consumption in the world of wireless infrastructure business: It is where you don’t have good coverage today, rural areas, insides of buildings, tunnels etc. And that is because the current technology doesn’t make it cost effective to do it. So we focus on innovation to create solutions to make it cost effective for service providers to cover those areas.

Rural Connectivity:
The fundamental problem with rural connectivity in India or anywhere in the world is that the population is spread out and they dont have the money to spend on their cell phones. The cost of running a network is high as we don’t have electricity so you’ve got to run on diesel, then there’s the security angle so you need security fencing and also the environmental hazard.

Solutions for Rural Connectivity
Instead of building the large towers we can cover the areas with small cells. We have done this in Vermont in US, where we have put one of these in every mile of the road. So we built small cell networks around rural areas. This is like our base station which is solar powered and requires only 50 watts of power so cut out the polluting diesel. Depending on the height of mounting this it can cover 3-5 kms. It can take about 1000 subscribers per set. We are like the universal highway for rural subscribers and for service providers. And this is very cost effective.

Digital India:
We are yet to connect with the Government. We are rolling out our network in Rwanda. This is like an experiment there but an experiment in Rwanda with 1 million people. It will show how effective this system is. So Rwanda is really like our test bed but I want to get this into India. There’s tremendous opportunity in India. And we know what rural connectivity does to the economy. GSMA has a study that shows for every 10% increase in wireless rural connectivity GDP goes up 1.2%.

Call Drops:
The trouble is that telecom companies are less and less profitable in India. They have to spend on infrastructure to ensure there are no call drops and that is where we come in. We provide coverage as a service to the operators. And we can make it cost effective as we work with multiple operators. But for each of them to invest in equipment and then try to make money is a not viable solution.

India’s Regulations:
One of the challenges in India is that you have to be a service provider to build a telecom network. So the problem of an innovative model is that it might not fit into the regulatory framework. So India should have a more fluid regulatory framework and it is moving in that area in the last 5 years.

Tie-up with Telecom Operators In India:

Tata Teleservices was our first tie-up in 2011 and then Vodafone. We are coming up with 4G in the next few months and we will look at tying up with Indian companies with 4G technology

Tie-up with Rel Jio?

We are looking at all companies.

Innovation and India

My father couldn’t have done in India what he did with Bose Corporation in the US. Because those were the days of socialism in India. But that has undergone a huge change. We were culturally risk-averse and that is changing. Look at Silicon Valley, the majority of the innovators are Indians. Indians have great minds and Indians are very good at technology.

Reverse Brain Drain:
Of course, I was born in US, so technically there’s no question of my returning to India. But I would love to work here. In the past few years many people have told me that they are going back.

How Indian are you?

I am 3/4th Indian. My grandfather was Indian but my grandmother an American. So my father was half Indian. My mother is an Indian and so I am 3/4th Indian. But I come here every two years as a child. We used to be here for 3 months every time we came, so I am very rooted to India.

Association with Bose Corporation:
I’m on the trust of Bose Corporation but I’m not on the board.