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Kiosks Bring Services to Rural India

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Project Stories

Kiosks Bring Services to Rural India

BABAIL, India -- As any village youth in this northern corner of India, Krishan Ahlawat had few employment options aside from rickshaw driving or working the fields.

That changed last year when at 21, he became an entrepreneur for Drishtee, a Development Marketplace (DM) grant winning company that brings government and commercial services to villagers via internet-connected kiosks.
Drishtee entrepreneur
There are some 1,700 Drishtee entrepreneurs operating in 10 states throughout India.

“Drishtee gave me a computer, printer, generator, digital camera and wireless connection to the internet in return for the loan," said Ahlawat. “Initially I thought it was a risk, but demand for the products we offer has been increasing everyday."

Now Ahlawat makes a handsome profit and residents of his village have access to previously hard to access government and health services. For a small fee, they can also use the kiosk to seek work, apply for loans, purchase insurance, attain computer and language skills and learn about the latest market developments.

Ahlawat is one of 1,700 entrepreneurs servicing some 15 million rural residents in 10 Indian states. By 2008, Drishtee aims to mushroom to 10,000 kiosks nationwide.

"Drishtee is not just about bringing the outside world to the village, but about building the capacity of the village," said Satyan Mishra, Drishtee’s founder.

The company’s business model has received much recognition, raising more than a million dollars since it won the DM award four years ago. Last year, Drishtee was named Fastest Growing High-Tech Company in India by consulting giant Deloitte.

“We realized there was pent up demand in villages," said Mishra, who founded Drishtee in 2000 after working for a company implementing a state government contract looking for ways to improve service delivery in rural communities.

When Drishtee entered the DM competition in 2003, the company was at a crossroads. It had 90 kiosks extending government services to rural areas – a much needed but unsustainable venture.

“We wanted to cover commercial services on the network," Mishra said. “We knew it was the right path, but hadn’t taken it yet."

Winning $68,100 from the DM allowed Drishtee to make that shift.

Since then the company has moved on to offer a wide array of services including computer and language education, online access and market information. In early 2007, it also began selling health insurance and providing real-time doctor consultations by connecting villagers to medical professionals in urban centers.

With its more than 600,000 villages, rural India remains an untapped market serviced by intermediaries that add no value, said Mishra. Traditionally, middlemen were the connection between a villager selling his product and a manufacturer hundreds of miles away. Now the villager, by sitting in front of a Drishtee kiosk, can himself connect to the buyer. He can also find out marking price information, any new government rules and regulations that apply to him and other relevant information that help him earn a better income or improve his product.



Drishtee graphic
Among other linkages, Drishtee's rural commerce model links artisans directly to distributors and buyers.

Users can also access everything from government documents like birth certificates to micro-credit applications and health information.

The kiosks also provide employment for village youth.

“All the boys in the village are mostly idle when the school is off," said Brij Mohen Yaduav. “Some find physical labor jobs for a couple hundred rupees for the whole summer. But our parents take the money, and there is no program that gives us practical training to take part in the leap that they say India is making."


Since the village kiosk opened, the number of youth enrolled in computer and English courses is increasing daily. The kiosk is equally useful to farmers like Guru Dev Malakar, who boasts that he is now able to find out the daily price of his products in the market.

“Thanks to the kiosk, I don’t have to rely on others’ information about the prices which most of the time is wrong," he said.

Mishra’s vision for Drishtee is to bring economic prosperity to an entire village, by introducing services like electricity and water and working with banks and credit organizations to lend to villagers. Such “model villages" help bridge the gap between India’s rural poor and the country’s fast growing economy.

Said Mishra: “We want the company to have a big social heart."

For more information on Drishtee, visit www.drishtee.com 




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