TECHNOLOGY AND RURAL ECONOMY: Making life easier for rural consumers

Whether it’s better home appliances, smartphones, affordable finance, or farming tools, they want access to quality solutions to meet their needs.

Radha and Gauri, from Alwar, Rajasthan, have been participating in government programs for 10 years to learn digital skills and save money, driven by concerns about their children’s future and a deep desire to participate in the formal economy. Their village has an Internet connection, they have new paved roads, they use WhatsApp, they have electricity. Whether it’s better home appliances, smartphones, affordable finance, or farming tools, they want access to quality solutions to meet their needs.

However, much of this escaped them and many other rural women across the country. Product and service companies want to reach the last mile, but haven’t invested in deep, in-home customer access, preventing them from adapting to this huge rural market. Add to this, the digital divide for rural women prevents them from accessing long-term business skills to generate business opportunities and hence access long-term income opportunities to truly stimulate markets and rural economies.

Frontier Markets has partnered with rural women to overcome these challenges. “We believe social commerce is the future of rural India, and women are the driving force to make it happen,” says Ajaita Shah, founder of Frontier Markets, an assisted commerce platform that connects rural consumers to a diverse portfolio of organized rural products. user-friendly products and services. Rural women entrepreneurs such as Radha and Gauri, known as Saral Jeevan Sahelis, are the backbone of this assisted commerce business model.

“Our Saral Jeevan Sahelis help their family, friends and neighbors access all kinds of products and services at their doorstep through a vernacular and voice e-commerce solution designed for them. The Meri Saheli app was designed with our Sahelis three years ago – to have local languages, voice bots, voice-to-text and an AI training bot to help all kinds of women (digital savvy, illiterate) to use a digital tool to make them work, ”she says.

Sahelis use the Meri Saheli app to showcase products, facilitate online sales and collect information on the needs of rural families. Building an online and offline store experience, they get paid for data collection, facilitation, and demand generation. “They are their village’s trusted influencers, bridging the gap between produce and rural families,” Shah explains. This is taken care of by a local delivery and service team equipped with the technology.

“By making our platform the first online and offline hybrid platform to reach rural customers in the last village and by connecting products efficiently and at low cost, we have become the custodian of quality products. for rural clients according to their demand and their opinions, “she says. Today, 10,000 Sahelians have thus earned more than $ 15 million in income, investing in the future of their children, expressing the needs of their communities and becoming leaders in their villages.

Frontier Markets has grown 200% year over year and has demonstrated its profitability over the past four years. “We operate in 2,000 villages in India, with 20 micro-distribution centers managing 10,000 Sahelians using our app. It is a new way to develop a rural economy, through digital inclusion in supply chains, leveraging data capacities for better decision-making, innovative partnerships and a market-based approach to building a last mile rural supply chain.

Shah says there is a huge demand to generate income opportunities for women and provide quality services to rural communities. “We have partnerships with organizations led by women in seven states. We are raising $ 6 million to go from 10,000 Sahelians to 130,000 to reach 42 million families over the next three years, ”she adds.

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