Digital Solutions for Business, Enterprises, Financial Inclusion and Livelihoods

One of the last parallel sessions of the day was devoted to the discussion on Digital Solutions for Business, Enterprises, Financial Inclusion and Livelihoods. The session laid emphasis on how tools of ICT tools can be used to foster the growth of medium and small scale enterprises. Mr. Bikky Khosla, CEO – Trade India, chaired the session. The session was moderated by Mr. Ashish Sanyal, Former Senior Director – e-Gov, DeITY (Ministry of IT).

The session was initiated with a presentation from a delegate from our neighboring country Afghanistan Mr. Jes Kaliebe Petersen. The presenter shared that Paywast is a text base social networking platform meant for sharing information and ideas among Afghans at an affordable price. Paywast also offers corporate solutions such as group SMS and private chats. They started in the year 2011 with an aim to provide the citizens a platform through which they can connect more with each other. Paywast has also launched a web service that has most of the features of the SMS service. He added that in the very first year, Paywast has seen 1 million unique users in which 25% traffic came from SMS. In the initial months he provided the services and now looks to reap its benefits. He also shared that it was a difficult challenge to accustom community like that of Afghans, who used cell phones only for call purposes, to the use of text messages, but finally it has paid off. He concluded by sharing that they have now connected T.V. shows for their promotional messaging schemes and other advertisers too.

The next presentation was from the project Rural ERP by Niqotin. The presenter Surjith Singh J shared that Niqotin have been long active in the field of developing the ERP or Enterprise Resource Planning system. After considerable effort, they have come up with the first local language cloud based ERP for medium and small enterprises. Most MSMEs ask the question that is there any need to automate business when their target audience and expectations are quite low. To this people at Niqotin say that yes, MSMEs need to automate their business. In this world of globalization, in order to increase the efficiency and productivity of business one needs to automate the process. He added that the basic reasons as to why MSMEs avoid digitization of their business are the lack of awareness and know how to use the technology. Even the absence of any cost effective technology was also a hindrance in the acceptance of ERP system by MSMEs. Niqotin stepped in developed an ERP system which can be accessed from anywhere on any type of mobile device. The option of pay-as-you-go makes this a cost effective solution for manufacturing MSMEs. Being in local language it is very useful and comes with inbuilt utilities such integrated templates for different kind of documents, SMS gateways, ease of collecting feedback etc. The product is all to set to make a big mark in digitizing the business scenario in India.

The next presentation was from TRIBAC. The presenter Md. Selim Reza shared that the bamboo industries of the North Eastern states of India suffer from crucial issues such lack of market connectivity and supply chain bottlenecks. In fact negotiation process also becomes difficult in the absence of connectivity medium. This greatly daunts the development of the cottage industries in this region. TRIBAC is an organization which undertakes cluster based activities for promoting sustainable livelihood generation in the villages. They seek to solve the above stated problems by the use of mobile devices in these areas. They have created micro clusters of villages and setup centralized mobile desks in these clusters. They have given mobile handsets to bamboo craftsmen who can use these devices to connect with the market. They can get updates on the market prices and even negotiate prices with the suppliers and final buyers. TRIBAC also undertakes capacity building exercises with the help of mobile devices. As a result of this practice, product quality has improved drastically, information bottle necks have been resolved and income generation has increased.

Next presenter Mr. Abhishek Pandit was from AISECT, introducing their project on Inclusive growth with Financial Inclusion and Livelihood. The presenter briefly introduced the organization and came straight to the problem statement they are trying to address. They run training institutes in the remote regions of the country and give all sorts vocational training to youth. While operating they realized three main issues there: most rural people don’t have access to any kind of financial product, banks fear from setting up any branches or common service centres in these regions and also the students in these are don’t have access to any financial services. Realizing the fact that they already run 5000+ training centres, it was most suitable time for them to jump into the field of financial inclusion. The basic objective is to give basic financing facilities to the underprivileged and poor. Giving these services not only helped the poor but also helped them improve the sustainability of their centres. More and more banks are now realizing the opportunity in this area. They are now ready to liaison with AISECT to setup their branches through their centres. This is so because they can carry out operations without any upfront investment.

Apart from financial inclusion, employment generation is the second most important priority of NGOs and other govt. organizations. Mr. Sharad Vajpayee from NaukriSMS, also our next presenter, shared his determination to solve this problem. He added that he recognizes that there is different face to this problem. With the help of numbers and hypothetical examples he demonstrated that how job providers are not able to find employees and job seekers don’t get jobs. Thus it’s not entirely and issue of job generation but more of connecting job providers and job seekers. This problem of non-connectivity between job providers and job seekers intensifies in the case of “blue collar jobs”. Obviously literate people have options of career portals to help them find jobs but what about plumbers, tailors, drivers etc. thus they came up with the solution called NaukriSMS. Using SMS or IVR, people who can’t read or write can find jobs for themselves through mobile. He added that it acts as mobile newspaper for jobs and that too in the vernacular languages. Hopefully the gap between job seekers and providers would be bridged to some extent.

Next presentation was from Oxigen, India’s largest real time financial inclusion network. The presenter Mr Amir Alexandar Hasson shared that according to statistics, almost 600 million Indians don’t have any type of access to financial products and services. Oxigen caters to these people and provides basic financial services via its retailer networks. Recently they partnered with SBI to setup internet banking kiosks across the country. These oxygen retailers are just like mini bank branches and are equipped with all necessary infrastructures to provide major banking facilities. They also facilitate a large amount of remittances from the migrant workers in other parts of the world back to their villages. The presenter added that Oxigen also partnered with the Tamil Nadu state government and have enabled G2C payments such as pensions, scholarship etc. in Tamil Nadu, they have transferred almost 300 million rupees to almost 30,000 citizens. They have also recently taken steps towards enabling of micro-financing in the state of Rajasthan. They have started providing Rs. 5000 loan to women and have also started providing some financial education. The most encouraging fact of this initiative has been the 100% recovery rate.

In continuation of the concerns shared by Mr. Sharad regarding the lack of connectivity among job seekers and providers, Mr. Anshul Gupta presented their project Saral Rozgar. He shared that their target audience however, is the majority of bottom of the pyramid who are not much receptive to mobile services. It is certainly a paradox that job seekers want jobs and job providers are offering jobs but are still unable to meet. The entire job ecosystem is being run by middlemen who fleece the migrants from the far-flung areas to get them jobs. One of the main reasons why this problem exists is the absence of these job seekers on the digital platform. Thus their service helps these people to create their presence online. Customers can call their representative, who is a Tech Mahindra BPO agent. This agent will gather all the necessary information for creating an online resume from the consumers and put their resume online on the Saral Rozgar portal. Companies looking to hire these guys can now go to their portal and find the suitable match. This is indeed an amazing business model that will revolutionize the blue-collar job segment.

Next presenter was Mr. Anand Srivastava from Beam Money Pvt. Ltd. He had come to share his project Beam Sahayak. He shared that the project basically tries to integrate people who don’t know about financial integration and can’t reap the benefits of the country’s rapid economic growth. Instead of becoming the depositors of money like every other financial inclusion program; they decided to be the payers of money. They enable payments and help people to transact freely. Essentially in sense that they are mobile payment system that helps people to freely transact with anyone, anytime without the need of having a bank account. The services offered by Beam Sahayak range from money transfer to various added services and that too via mobile. The most important value proposition for the customer is simple; there is no need for different mobile phones or downloading any software or even any sort of paper work. Even the requirement of bank account is optional. Beam Sahayak crossed the 10 million customer mark in august this year and the resultant impact is beyond measurement. Beam Sahayak is a perfectly legal identity and is compliant with all the regulations and permissions of RBI. He concluded by saying that most important reason for failure of financial inclusion schemes is that there is no incentive for the end consumer to save. As long as incentives for saving money are absent, financial inclusion can’t succeed.

The next presentation was from Drishtee Development & Communication Limited. The presenter Mr. Paragdhar Konwar shared that being a social enterprise; they seek to create impact in villages by creating the systems of micro-enterprise. They aim at generating employment and provide services at an affordable price. They have been offering services like health, banking, micro-finance and FMCG products. Drishtee is a well-known name in the northeastern regions of India and have earned various national as well international accolades for their services. Their model is based on local capacity building and they create wealth for community by enhancing savings rate and improving earning capacities. It is a fundamental business model which works on the franchise basis. The capacity building is being undertaken by their Drishtee Service Centre which they have started with the help of SBI. They operate almost 800 centres in the north east and covered almost 1500 villages till date. The efforts of Drishtee are slowly creating a huge impact in the lives of people in the northeast.

The next presenter was Ms. Pooja Srinivas from Google for their project WeOW or the Women Entrepreneurs on Web. She shared that the program started in January this year and aims at creating awareness among women entrepreneurs about the mediums to connect with their customers. The program aims grating tools to the entrepreneurs so that they can make their entreprises more effective with the given resources and efforts. In short this program is all determined to make your enterprise a better one so that you can achieve more. In the coming years they aim at expanding the program to many more Asia pacific countries. She also highlighted the 5 circles approach that they employ at the program. The five circles are the 5 modules in which they train women entrepreneurs to have more successful digital presence. The first circle is “to build your online presence”. This part helps you build effective online presence, including a website, a social networking page and a video channel. The second circle is “collaborate effectively” and helps participants on how they can collaborate better with documents, presentations etc. Third circle is “how do you connect with your customers”. This module is concerned with selecting the right medium to connect with your customers. Next circle is concerned with “promoting your business” and last circle was about “tracking and optimizing”. All the content is available online and accessible easily. A program truly meant to empower the women entrepreneurs of today’s generation.

The final presentation was from State Election Commission, Gujarat. They were here for their project on Online Voting System. While the session was dedicated more towards financial inclusion, they talked about the inclusion of people in a democratic process called voting. Every one of us is aware with the traditional secret ballet based voting system and the challenges inherent in this kind of voting. Incidences of booth capturing, difficulty on carrying the boxes between places were some prime issues. To curb these, electronic voting system was introduced. Although the e-voting system has solved much of the issues, the challenge of transporting the machines still remains. To make the election process completely flawless, the State Election Commission has come up with Online Voting System. It is a convenient, optional and user-friendly way to commence the voting process. Under this scheme, election would be conducted in two stages. In the first stage voters would be registered and the verifications would be done. Even the verification of the contenders can be done online. Into the second phase actual pole will take place and the results would be declared. The process is convenient since people can vote from anywhere via internet, it is optional as it gives option to vote from the comfort of your home or go to the center. This would impart the features of transparency, authenticity and non-tractability of the voter. This would make the election process near perfect with only one time cost.

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