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Friday, May 23, 1997

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Info-Tech

Betting on the Internet, PPP aims high

DATE: 23-05-97 :: PAGE : 07 :: COL.: b

Arun Natarajan

CHENNAI, May 22

BETTING on the Internet to level the playing field, a small Chennai-basedfirm is setting its sights high. The company, Plans Proposals & Projects(PPP), run by three brothers (who also constitute its entire staff), islooking to appoint distributors worldwide for a software product it hasdeveloped using the Java programming language. The software, PPPshar, enablesseveral PC users to simultaneously access the Internet using a single dial-up connection.

According to Mr. Parameshwar Babu, the product's chief developer andthe technical expert in the trio, PPPshar could be used to hook up allthe PCs (running Windows 95 and a standard Web brows er software) in acorporate network to the Internet using a single-modem and a single phoneconnection. The software, priced at Rs. 5,000 per terminal (on the usernetwork), 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 thereis no need for a permanent Internet Protocol (IP) address as in the caseof leased line connections. Provided the product performs as claimed, thesavings derivable from the software are quite obvious for any organisationwhich wants to provide multi ple Net connections to its members: VSNL,currently the sole Internet Service Provider (ISP) in India, charges aboutRs. 10 lakhs annually for a high speed (64 kbps kilo bits per second) leasedline connection compared to Rs. 15,000 for a dial-up TCP/IP account (offeringa maximum speed of 28.8 kbps).

Mr. Babu says that PPPshar would ensure that the speeds of the individualterminals in the network do not suffer when multiple users are logged onto the Net. According to him, the software keeps track of the ``idle time''commonly encountered while surfing the Web (that is, while locating andloading Web pages) and divides this time among the different terminals.

``In any case, the individual speeds available to seven terminals simultaneouslyconnected through a 28.8 kbps modem compares favourably with 16 users splittingup a 64 kbps leased line between them,'' he says.

According to Mr. Babu, PPPshar can also be used by system manag ersto selectively control access to certain types of information on the Net.For example, for a Chennai-based medical college-cum- hospital, PPP hascustomised the software to ensure that Web sites relevant to medicine canbe accessed by the individual users.

The company is targeting the product at corporates and education alinstitutions. It has already booked orders to install PPPshar, which wasreleased 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 preneurswanting to set up ``cybercafes'' (in which visitors can access the Internetby paying a per hour fee) at a low capital investment. ``There are nottoo many companies in the country who can afford to set up cybercafes usingleased lines as the costs are too high. With PPPshar even small companieswith 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- basedQuality Business Management (QBM), a private company pro viding electronicdesktop publishing, Public Call Office and E- mail services at a prominentbusiness 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-relatedinfor mation services.

A dozen Chennai-based firms and an equal number from the other metroshave approached PPP for signing up as distributors for the product. Accordingto Mr. Babu, five companies from other coun tries have also evinced interestbased on the information they had obtained from the company's Web site(abcdokutec.com)

According to the brothers, Grundig (India) officials are so impressedwith the product that they had offered to help the company market it inGermany and other parts of the world. ``In fact, one of the directors inthe parent company was so impressed with the product that he said we shouldset 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 ProtecMicrosystems Inc. However, he points out that Web Share allows simultaneousshared 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 downloadinginformation from the Net. According to Mr. Babu, an important feature ofthis software, not available to other FTP client software, is the abilityto resume interrupted file transfers. ``This enables users to downloadlarge software from the Internet. Even if the line gets disconnected inbetween, 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 pagesfor clients on its Web site. The company's Web site at tracts visitorsby posting several free resources _ a trade bulletin board, a matrimonialservice, a ``herbal petrol'' forum (which discusses the Ramar Pillai episode),a law forum for NRIs investing in India and a Web forum for Internet usersin Chennai.

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