Spreading the net to rural India

Updated: Nov 13 2005, 05:30am hrs
Drishtee means vision in Hindi. Little wonder, the two sister organisations Drishtee.com Ltd and Drishtee Foundation are dedicated to bringing a new vision to rural India. They are delivering the government and other services to villagers through ICTs. They rely on the enterprise of local entrepreneurs supported by a central organisation and ICT infrastructure. Improving services to villages and increasing the economic viability of rural entrepreneurship through proprietary arrangements with the governments to provide services at lower than government costs are some of the stated aims, according to Satyan Mishra, CEO, Drishtee.

Drishtee Foundation was registered as a society in February 2003. It uses ICT tools to communicate the benefits of ICTs to outside stakeholders. Its basic objective is to sensitise and promote the usage of ICT kiosks among users and the outside stakeholders. It advocates the need of basic accountability, timely reporting and spreading general awareness about new economy.

Drishtee.com was founded in 2000. It has two roles: to expand and build the network and to sell services through the kiosks which it sets up. A kiosk is a multi-point service delivery channel in a village. The kiosk operator provides different kinds of services to villagers like computer education, insurance, digital photo studio and the Internet-based services. The kiosk is equipped with a computer, a digital camera and a photo printer.

An Internet kiosk in a rural area combines the role of a retail shop for services, a training and facilitation centre.

Says Mishra, ICICI Bank is financing our kiosks throughout India except in the North-East. We are retailing ICICI products through these kiosks.

Adds Suvalaxmi Chakraborty, general manager, Rural, Micro-banking and Agri-business Group, ICICI, The ICICI Bank as part of its strategy to reach out to rural India uses rural Internet kiosks as a sustainable way of servicing the largely dispersed rural populace. However, with over six lakh villages to be serviced along with numerous micro-level challenges in operationalising this channel, ICICI Bank has taken the partnership route to set up and manage the rural kiosks.

She adds, Drishtee is one of the key partners in ICICI Banks endeavour to deliver customised financial services to rural customers, through innovative delivery channels. ICICI Bank offers financial products and services such as loans, investments and insurance through these kiosks. Along with this, the kiosks will carry out other activities as envisaged by Drishtee.

Mishra adds, Microsoft is another key strategic partner and we are working together to build the network, conduct research and provide valuable software for these kiosks. Amaron is helping village entrepreneurs in owning the kiosks.

Mishra says the network is being expanded gradually. We would focus on business viability for each of these kiosks and the network as a whole. Drishtees model is based on sustainability, scalability, entrepreneurship and ICTs. The focussed approach of the organisation has helped it remain afloat without donations.