Sify Limited announced that its ‘iWay’ cyber cafe chain now has more than 3100 cafes at 149 cities and towns across India, opening at the rate of about two per day. Of these, 34 are company owned, and the rest being franchised operations.
Sify claimed that during the last quarter, its iWays were used by over a million Indians for a number of different services that include broadband Internet access, Net telephony, online games and video conferencing.
“With less than 5% of India’s population online, and home PCs at 3.5 million out of a total of about 210 million homes, cyber cafes are going to be the primary means of accessing the Net for some time to come. According to IDC, India has the fastest growing Internet user base in the Asia Pacific Region. In fact, the Internet & Mobile Association of India estimates that Internet users will grow from the current 39 million to a 100 million by 2007. A majority of these users will be accessing the Net from cyber cafes. This is the market we are targeting for the iWays, with multiple services and revenue streams. We will also look at taking this successful delivery platform for Internet services to other countries who have similar levels of home PC and Internet penetration,” said Shrikant Joshi, President of Access Media, Sify.
Sify manages the service delivery centrally to its chain across 149 cities over its Tier 1 backbone infrastructure, with software and tools custom designed by its technology team. The software with which service delivery is remotely managed also manages the administrative and financial aspects of operations in a reliable, transparent manner, building credibility and trust with customers and franchisees.
The software, tools and technology that run the iWays are said to guarantee reliability and the best achievable user experience. Each PC is ‘sanitised’ the moment a user logs out of the system so that there is nothing left in the cache or history, so that users get a ‘fresh’ PC every time they log on. Updates of software, security patches etc are remotely uploaded into every PC across the chain over the network by engineers from the command center in Chennai, South India. Apart from that, every PC can be monitored and reconfigured remotely to ensure optimum working condition using custom developed tools.
The company said customers are debited, from a prepaid charge for a specified number of hours, as per actual use in real time, which they can monitor when they are logged in and renew online. Since the service is delivered off central servers over the network, customers can log in from any of the 3100 iWays from anywhere in the country with their log in id and password, and use the services just the way they do from the iWay where they signed on. This gives them flexibility and makes their access ‘portable’.
While Internet access forms the center service, Sify’s iWays offer other services such as Online Games and Net telephony. Online games saw a development of 50% in terms of usage with over a 1000 iWays being games enabled, and at special gaming cafes that Sify has branded ‘Sify Gamedromes’. Net telephony also continues to grow, with the service available from familiar looking telephone booths which consumers find easy to use. The phones, however, interface with a computer using an application developed by Sify and make a Voice over Internet Protocol call. iWays are also increasingly becoming centers for eCommerce for travel arrangements, paying for utilities, eGovernance services etc.