From Rural Outsourcing to Rural Opportunities: Developing an ICT Mediated Distributed Production Enterprise in Tamil Nadu, India

From Rural Outsourcing to Rural Opportunities: Developing an ICT Mediated Distributed Production Enterprise in Tamil Nadu, India

Aarti Kawlra
DOI: 10.4018/jicthd.2011070102
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Inspired by the potential of Information and Communication Technologies, henceforth ICTs, for socio-economic development, and supported by a university based technology and business incubator, Rural Production Company, henceforth RPC, was set up in 2007 employing an ICT-mediated distributed production model. This paper reveals how RPC, initially an exploratory project whose key innovation was its Internet kiosk-facilitated model of crafts production and local empowerment, morphed into a social enterprise catering to global demands. The context of innovation provided by the Incubator led to a transformation of an ICT4D (ICT for Development) project into a business venture through the practice of formal and informal questioning at every stage of its implementation. This paper focuses on the iterative method adopted while highlighting the role of the incubator in the overall design and development process of the enterprise. This paper is a reflexive mapping of the organization’s evolution from the original research agenda of outsourcing production cum rural employment, to one that privileges local networks both as a conscious business strategy and as an arena for collaborative change for human development.
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The Innovation Context Of University Based Incubation

Incubators, in general, are seen as innovation spaces where entrepreneurs and business ventures receive various kinds of support for a sustained period of time to develop and commercialize new products, new technologies, or services. Typically this is accomplished through “job-creation” and “wealth generation” which are viewed as a means to focus on the wider community through the agency of the entrepreneur often, mediated through technology (Almirall, 2008; Carayannis et al., 2006; Castells, 2000; Chesbrough, 2003; Scaramuzzi, 2002; Sein & Harindranath, 2004; Schaffers et al., 2007; Schaffers & Kulkki, 2007; Steyaert, 2000).

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