Networking Rural India

Published Date
01 - Dec - 2011
| Last Updated
28 - Apr - 2016
 
Networking Rural India

Drishtee generates rural employment in six states through IT-enabled services with a goal to slowing migration to urban areas


chyut Kumar Kalita of Dipota village in Sonitpur district of Assam has a Masters degree in Chemistry. Lack of employment opportunities led him to take up poultry farming. Six months ago, Delhi-based rural Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) solutions provider, Drishtee.com helped him avail a bank loan and set up an Internet kiosk in Dipota. Today, he has recovered part of the loan and is able to earn a stable income by conducting computer education courses at his kiosk. “Youngsters between the ages of 18 and 25 take up these courses. These courses help them get a job in the city,” he says.

Echoing the sentiments of several entrepreneur-creating developmental programmes in the country, Drishtee.com, a Delhi-based rural ICT solutions provider teaches several men and women—in three hundred districts across the country—how to beat the odds, and earn a living.

Drishtee provides IT services to the rural masses through a kiosk-based revenue model.  The services enabled by Drishtee include access to government programs and benefits, market-related information, private information exchange and transactions.
  
Creating A Network
Using a tiered, franchise and partnership model, Drishtee has set up over 300 information kiosks in six states, across India.

Through this network of village kiosks, Drishtee and the local entrepreneurs facilitate delivery of ICT-based services to people in rural areas. A kiosk is owned and operated by a local villager, thus enabling wealth creation by encouraging entrepreneurship at the community level in the village. These kiosks also provide viable employment opportunities for the unemployed rural youth who can perform simple data entry tasks at the kiosks. 


We expect the kiosk operators to earn about Rs. 6, 000 per month, after they repay the loan.”
Satyan Mishra,
Founder, Drishtee

Satyan Mishra, founder and CEO of Drishtee.com: “Today there are nearly 562 entrepreneurs in the six states where we have set up projects. In partnership with a bank like ICICI, we arrange for loans for the kiosk owner.”

The kiosk-owner requires only basic maintenance and numeric data-entry skills. The kiosk owner or operator bears the cost of stationery, maintenance, electricity and telephone bills and pays a monthly fee of Rs 500 (apart from a licence fee of Rs 5,000 to cover training costs) to Drishtee for technical and marketing support. Drishtee also earns a commission on select services offered through the kiosks. 

“We expect the kiosk operators to earn about Rs 6,000 per month, after the first year, in which they repay the loan,” says Mishra.

The kiosk-owners are given basic training in handling Drishtee’s services while catering to the customers. According to Mishra, “We pick about forty people from nearly 200 applicants. After identifying enterprising candidates, the training process begins.”

Impact On Rural Economy
One of Drishtee’s positive case studies is that of farmers in Madhya Pradesh who were getting Rs 300 per quintal from local traders for a potato crop at the local market. By checking prevailing market rates on the Drishtee portal, they discovered that the current rates at the Indore mandi were Rs 400. This prompted them to sell their potato produce at the Indore mandi, where they earned a higher profit.

Mishra believes that by creating more employment opportunities, ICT projects may help reverse the trend of rural migration that curently seems to be the trend. Using IT as a tool for basic education, a new generation of IT literate people may emerge who are able to sustain themselves, economically.

The kiosks erected in these villages also ensure that Government schemes are communicated to people in rural areas.“People are also made aware of their fundamental rights,” he says.

Drishtee  kiosks enable e-government services like obtaining important documents (driving licenses, land records, etc) and addressing of online grievances,  and private services like an online marketplace (Gram Haat), e-mail  (Gram Daak), and an agriculture forum (Krishi Prashan),  Commercial services, implemented in association with corporate institutions include computer education, insurance, digital photography, astrology and matrimonial services.

Drishtee’s corporate tie-ups—Microsoft (OS), Hewlett Packard (for digital photography services),  ICICI (insurance), Escorts (health services) and Pustak Mahal (e-shopping services) make some of the commercial services possible.

In Kalawali village, Sirsa district (Haryana), Biker Singh, a farmer who grew sugarcane for a Government factory was aggrieved, as his crop had not been harvested and purchased by the factory owners, on time. Singh sent an e-mail from a Drishtee kiosk, to the concerned Government authorities and in three days, received Rs 1,06,000 as compensation.

Tech Support
A central Web Server (See infographic on page 171) acts as the main administrator of the village network. It co-ordinates communication between the districts, monitors the performance of the kiosks, and acts as a national level content provider. At every district office, the local-staff take on the role of content providers, by updating the Drishtee portal (http://ind.drishtee. com/) with data such as market prices, local employment listings, etc.

Using a dial-up connection from a local Internet Service Provider (ISP), the kiosks connect to Drishtee’s Web portal. The hardware, which the kiosk owner invests in, is provided by Drishtee.

Drishtee has also developed localised content for six states. Its indigenous software (which is used to enter data relevant to the Drishtee portal), is menu-driven, and requires minimum data entry skills. The software has been designed in Hindi, Tamil and Assamese and can be customised for other languages as well.

While most Drishtee kiosks have dial-up connections, in one district (in Jaipur), optic-fiber has been used for connectivity. The feasibility of deploying optic-fibre connection in other locations is being studied. In places where existing telephone connections are of poor quality, cellular connections may be tapped, to enable connectivity.

The Drishtee Roadmap
For its ICT initiatives, Drishtee has received accolades from the World Bank and the US-India Business Council. In the next one year, Drishtee plans to set up nearly 1,000 kiosks, in 20 districts spread across six states. Helping kiosk owners earn an additional Rs 3,000 per month (Rs 1,500 worth of income-generation services, Rs 1,000 worth of savings, Rs 500 out of purchasing services) is yet another  target.

 Team Drishtee aims to connect “every single village in India to the other villages and the outside world.”

So why did Mishra choose the road less travelled? “Because not only does it make good economic sense for Drishtee, we are also helping promote jobs in rural areas. In many ways, I feel I am giving back to my community.”


Meera VankipuramMeera Vankipuram