Book Ends

Zoho founder Sridhar Vembu launches book on Smart Villages

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on September 24, 2021

The 511-page volume brought out by Springer Nature Switzerland AG seeks answers on bridging the urban-rural divide

“The soul of India lives in its villages,” declared Mahatma Gandhi about a hundred years ago. He believed the path to development lay in rural development. A century later, however, the urban-rural divide seems to have grown bigger in India, and people are still seeking answers on uplifting the village economy.

A new book , titled ‘Smart Villages: Bridging the Global Urban-Rural Divide” by Springer Nature Switzerland AG that seeks solutions to this conundrum through case studies from across the globe, was launched late Wednesday by Zoho founder Dr Sridhar Vembu, who has inspirationally put India's villages in the spotlight since he leads his company’s $610 million software operations from a hamlet near Tenkasi in Tamil Nadu.

The book launch event was organized by the Sona Valliappa group, whose vice-chairman Chocko Valliappa along with Nirmalesh Sampath Kumar, Director, Innovation & R&D, at the Sona Group have contributed two chapters on the group’s work in the villages around Salem. The event was timed to coincide with the day Mahatma Gandhi renounced the dhoti and shirt favouring the loincloth, since it happened at the premises of the Sona Group founder.

Speaking at the launch event, the main author of the book, Dr V I Lakshmanan, Professor, University of Toronto, Canada described how Gandhi's ideas on the village economy were inspirational as were former President Abdul Kalam’s PURA (Providing Urban Amenities to Rural Areas) initiatives. He also said how it was heartening to see Dr Sridhar Vembu taking the bold step of reverse migration to a village, thereby being the most apt person to launch the book. The idea of the book was triggered when the authors witnessed the series of investments made on Smart Cities which they felt would expand the urban-rural divide. They have tried to capture best practices, on-ground application and technical expertise on creating smart villages in the book.

Dr Vembu, too talked about drawing inspiration from Dr Kalam’s ideas and how he shifted to Tenkasi even before the pandemic. He talked about how employers' could play a role in empowering rural talent through skilling, technology and infrastructure.

Mr Chocko Valliappa described how the Sona College of Technology, run by Sona Valliappa Group, was founded by Kalaithanthai Karumuttu Thiagarajan Chettiar, a textile magnate, had a Gandhi connect. At Chettiar's home in Madurai on September 22, 1921, Mahatma Gandhi gave up wearing shirts and dhoti and switched to the loincloth.

In their chapter in the book, Chocko Valliappa and Nimalesh K. Sampath Kumar have emphasized empowering women through special training to become independent and armed with the appropriate skills to get jobs. They describe how a replicable framework must be created first, and how interventions can be done following the framework. A beginning has been made by the Sona College of Technology at the Women’s Technology Park (WTP), Salem in Tamil Nadu, running five projects, sponsored by the Department of Science & Technology.

Check out the book on Amazon

Published on September 24, 2021

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