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The technology futurepreneur
The telecom tycoon, who has taken up Singapore citizenship, is also big on philanthropy.
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Part of the money he got from selling his telecom company in India has been invested in the centre, which has cost about $50 million.

 

Dr Modi sees himself as a "technology futurepreneur", a man who is always seeing the cutting edge in technology as the future.

He introduced photocopying to India and later was in the forefront of the telecom wave.

His latest venture - it involves using the Internet to deliver content - is the future, he says.

"When I got out of the telecom sector in India, I realised that the operator is going to be a tube while the content and the Internet would be the future.

As an operator, we had reached a peak.

Similarly, when I realised that copiers are no longer going to be the key in offices, I got out. Every technology has a life," he says of his decision to quit as a telecom operator.

"Innovation means you get out of one technology and then get into another. To get into another technology requires a build-up which takes years of risk-taking and I am in that mode now," he adds.

Dr Modi feels that personal computers are going out and TVs too may be on the way out and "the small screen is going to become big".

He forsees many companies going bankrupt as innovation is taking over.

Phone operators are waking up to this reality as they are the ones supporting old technology, he says, pointing out how Apple fought the operators by going straight to the customer and scored big becoming a trillion dollar company in the process.

His own Si2i is not doing well now but Dr Modi has an explanation.

A chemical engineer by training, who holds an MBA and a PhD in financial management, says: "It is a painful year but next year we will come back and become profitable. It always happens when you move into a new technology."

He admits that the company is struggling a bit but believes it is in the right field: "It is a hockey stick period. We have closed the past and we are coming in with new technology. We are moving into mobile Internet and 4G technology and plan to offer products which are a lot less costly than what is available in the US."

As he prepares to leave for another meeting, he says he is heading to Japan soon to study the changes happening there.

"I am a traveller and so I am constantly on the move. Technology is my passion," he claims.

That, he says, is how he relaxes but his son-in-law tells me later that Dr Modi hardly relaxes.

He says the 63-year-old is always busy from 6am to about 11pm.

patrickj@sph.com.sg

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