Commercial viability key for e-Content innovation: Harsha

Monday, 28 October 2013 01:40 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

UNP MP and Consul-tant Economist Dr. Harsha de Silva on Saturday told a global forum of e-content innovators in Colombo that commercial viability is key to be successful in the ICT sphere. Addressing the World Summit Award 2013’s third day sessions, UNP MP who himself had championed several ecommerce and ICT initiatives said the driving force in any product or service for its thriving or survival is the value perceived about it by the target group. Responding positively to an invitation perceived as a rare opportunity given to the Opposition, the UNP MP Dr. Harsha De Silva made the above comment as Chief Guest Saturday morning. Creating a mood of friendship with all, the MP ensured the audience including WSA Chairman Professor Peter A. Bruck that his keynote address would not have any political overtones. Speaking further during his keynote address on the last day of the three day-conference the Economic Consultant said: “Even the most brilliant e-Content in the world will not last long unless it has sufficient commercial viability. In your rational programmed frame of mind you may think, ‘Aha, this is the solution to this burning problem. It is extremely cheap, it doesn’t entail the ordeal of queues and travel, it saves much time, it makes life so comfortable and what more do you want?’ But things don’t always work that way in this world. For a product to catch on and bring about the positive change that you desire; it has to be perceived as overridingly good by the target group. Low cost or financial advantage was not always the overriding good for e-Content target groups or any group in general, the economic consultant emphasised. Driving this point home to the WSA Global Congress 2013, Dr. De Silva said: “Let me take you in imagination to a true experience of a successful failure a team in which I was a member, experienced 13 years ago. Let me go in imagination to the 130-year old largest tea auction centre in the world, the Colombo Tea Auction Centre. The methodology followed there is 130 years old. It involves the ordeal of travel by representatives of small and large scale tea planters from upcountry to Colombo for the auction. The auction is held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays every week. Half to one million little tea samples are auctioned twice a week. Thousands upon thousands of tea plantation units whether they are small as half an acre or as big as the Labookelle Plantations of Nuwara Eliya, go through the ordeal of bidding for ensuring the cheapest purchase of the right blend of tea to satisfy their companies. These companies totalled about 140 in the whole world. This involves spending of two days per week and using the tiresome human open cry auction system. “Seeing this ordeal, a group of us in 2000 decided to prepare an application which  gave attention to all possible blends and the fluctuation of dollars. By using this application, the representatives of plantations could avoid travel and with much ease ensure that the right blend was purchased at the cheapest price as required by the company. The blend differs from country to country. What is all right for China may not be all right for Iran or Iraqi. However, all our efforts met with failure. It was what I called successful failure. The application was technically superior, but why did it fail? It was because it did not have what the target group wanted. As they put it, it had no warmth. The warmth they wanted was not the warmth from a space heater but warmth of fellowshipping that was concomitant at the tea auction in Colombo for 130 years. In this fellowshipping there was opportunity for them to exchange mundane and down to earth information of human interest like how many glasses of beer the fellow bidder enjoyed the previous night. “Many start-ups based on wonderful and brilliant concepts, speaking objectively, have failed because they did not cater to the value perception of the target group. The Colombo Tea Auction is a gold mine. I urge you to visit it. It will convince you of the need of ensuring that the e-Content products have value from the buyer’s point of view.” Dr. Harsha De Silva concluding his keynote address said that although ICTA had asked him to speak about ICT in South Asia, he felt unequal to the task and decided to talk about e-Content in Sri Lanka. Under this topic too he decided to speak about what was not there in e-Content in Sri Lanka. He said during his delivery he had tried to show what was thus not there. It is the commercial viability that was lacking.