Manipur as an emerging e-business hub; do we have the potential?

Published on July 8, 2009

By Ngamjahao Kipgen

Electronic Business, commonly referred to as “eBusiness” or “e-Business”, may be defined as the utilization of information and communication technologies (ICT) in support of all the activities concerning business. I am neither a propagator nor an advertising agent for company/network business as such. My intention however is to throw some light on the prevailing economic phenomenon in Manipur today.

In the context of this, I would like to highlight few things which needed attention. Some of them are: To what extent does the prevailing network business boost or enhance the economy of Manipur; how does it improve/uplift the socio-economic status of the people. My curiousness to this area has grown to such an extent that it is imperative to have a closer observation rather than by simply giving a bird’s eye view. To make my analysis/arguments more pragmatic, it would be based on the information gathered and witnessed personally in the past few months.

Observation and Exploration:

Over the past few months, the numbers of internet consumer have grown tremendously in Manipur. In other words, there are many customers queuing up in cyber cafes mostly in Imphal city. Since I am a frequent visitor to the cyber café for browsing the internet updating information concerning my research, I am amazed to see many customers thronging the café. It is annoying and at the same time quite exhilarating of being part of the carnival type atmosphere. None can imagine that people in Manipur would be so attune to browsing the internet at such regular intervals on a daily basis.

All these have constantly put me in a state of delirium and it is equally thought provoking. This eventually compels me to explore things at a broader framework and not essentially confines myself to the hysterics type gala/event in a cyber café. I personally restrained myself from mere hypothetical conclusions, which are often discouraged and falsified. Therefore, a rational examination is very much fundamental. Now before we give a diagnosis and a deeper analysis of the nature (“hue and cry”) of all these happening, it is important to figure out what is the impetus behind these entire hullabaloos? My intention however is not to question the authenticity and credibility or give a critique to whatsoever business (network/company) they may be. Though there might be several network businesses operational in Manipur in the past years, only some of the current ones would be taken into accounts.

To begin with, first, NSEM (National Self Employment Mission) is a Delhi (India) based Insurance Company. Their vision states that “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”. True, many hard working members who have enrolled several down-line members (ranging from 18 and 36 on both left and right) did achieve a bike or a car, subject to their level of success. It’s indeed a matter of excitement and an admiration to see people thronging into showrooms (Eastern Motors), giving orders for the choice of their particular brand of car (a Hyundai i10, a Maruti Alto, etc.). It sometimes appears much easier than walking in a restaurant and scrolls down the menu and order what you want. No wonder the city traffic is always in constant jam despite the road being expanded time and again. And believe me all these are not a fruit reaped overnight, but a constant hard (net) working over a speculated time period.

Second, TVI (Travel Ventures International) Express – a UK based International Direct Selling Company adheres to “touching lives globally”. Their punch line goes as “Growth beyond vision and money beyond count” and their mission is “to inspire people to help others making a positive change in their lives”. The advertisement brochure bears graffiti “Make money while you sleep”.  Unlike NSEM, TVI requires enough attention and calculation and is a little bit trickier. In a way the route/step to achieving a cool US $ 500/- & 15000/- is fast and easier. Besides, there are many exciting bonus and incentives like foreign tour etc.

Third, BBS (Best Business System) launched on 22nd May 2009 in the heart of the Imphal city, inaugurated by some honourable ministers. BBS believe in the ethos of “financial upliftment and also a group of people who pledge to work for the socio-economic well being of the people and fulfilled their long cherished desires and dreams.” I am told that BBS follows a pattern which is more or less like NSEM though there are few variations in packages and incentives.

Now, without going into the minute details of their profiles, we can use Manipur as a frame of reference by comparing it with some developed nations. Often, we heard that people in developed countries/nations do not rest at night when they are supposed to be retiring. A popular story often talked of the Japanese is their work culture that they worked day and night. It is also seen as a hidden criterion for their successfulness and prosperity in matters to attaining such a position globally after the post Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing.

Today they have become one of the most admirable and developed nation in the world. By seeing and observing the prevailing phenomena in Manipur, it is a matter of pride to see such development and advancement though at a small scale. Whatever steps/progress encounter so far is indeed impressive. Taking this case in point, none can deny the fact that we are potential enough to become a global e-business hub.  Also, the strong will and dynamism of the people is apparent from the network business experience. Despite the law and order situation at its worst, and the state’s economy in shambles; the hard working attitude and will power (dare to fight and grasp for what they want) to achieve is witnessed from the network experience.

Analytical comment:

Considering the all India scenario, it is quite amazing to see the trend of network business in Manipur comparing with other states. It would not be a mistake to make a note that the network business in Manipur grows at a faster pace much more than any other place around the world. In the light of this context, it would be worthwhile to inquire – Are the people in Manipur more intelligent or more skilful in terms of business (e-business)? Is business profession an ascribed/attributed status or attained by virtue of birth? Apparently all these jobs are more practical (e.g. online network business) and demands more skills. Until few months back we often shrugged off our shoulder even by mentioning of the very word ‘business’.

If you happen to ask one, the immediate blunt reply would be “me and business” never or no way. We have the tendency to give away or look upon to our fellow Marwaris, Punjabis, Tamils, etc. concerning all these business matters and termed it as a fiasco. The economic fate in Manipur has always been decided by the non-locals and we the locals are always at the mercy of all these Babus, who are lying down idly resting their bulging tummy on a white linen pillow. We are by our very nature compelled to remain within the clutch of the age-old practice of jhumming or rice cultivation, whether it’s in the hill or valley.

Now, seemingly to be into business or to set foot in a corporate world, one always feels that a Management degree is a must. True, but only to some extent and not always. What I have personally experience from the present network business in Manipur is that no much of such skills are needed. What you practically do is – enrolled yourself and become a member and further enroll/sponsored some (two) down-lines the desired goal/level is achieved and rest will take its own trajectory. What normally done and require is – do a plan show and explain the pros and cons of the business, they get enrolled if they are convinced that if it would be rewarding. In a way, a sensible individual defines and decides what one wants to be. S/he is the master of his/her destiny.

The thought of rupees/dollars makes people sleepless and awake till late in the night browsing the internet. They work attentively till late night, nonetheless than those working in the BPO sector. Not until recently one wonders as to how people working in call centres (in metros) works 24×7. A watchful commentator had made a plain statement that “the thought of carrying a laptop and browsing an internet was a distant dream, but today it has become a thing of the past (obsolete)”. Therefore, it is no more surprising enough to witness that the world of network or corporate business has no such boundaries and limitations. It travels and goes beyond our expectations and dreams.

As a matter of fact, network business in Manipur does not divide people on ethnic lines, nobody cares whether you are a Meitei, a Pangal, a Naga or a Kuki; what matters is how convincing and how well your networking works. In short, it matters how successful you are in achieving the set/desire goals. There is no question of segregation, irrespective of caste, creed and ethnic group; we all belong to a single global business family.

The writer is a Research Scholar at Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, India.