India is on the international world map for many things, such as its offshore outsourcing services, call center and software development expertise. But despite its strong progress report, much of India is still rural and underdeveloped, and one company aims to bridge the digital divide.
Drishtee Dot Com is helping Indian villagers get plugged into the digital age using a Drishtee Soochnalaya, or Information Kiosk. Drishtee has designed its own portal with special features such as multilingual content (Indian languages and English), and uses multiple connectivity options like dial-up, GPRS and V-SAT to address Internet connectivity problems existing in rural India.
Together with local business partners, Drishtee offers a range of ICT-based services such as enhanced access to e-government, education and healthcare information on its kiosks. Drishee's Information Kiosk delivers services and information to villagers who otherwise would have to travel to the cities for government services.
Founded in August 2000 by Satyan Mishra, Drishtee Dot Com operates a tiered franchise and partnership model and has rolled out a networking infrastructure across rural India. Drishtee crossed the 1,000 mark in 2005, and now has 1,020 kiosks installed. That's only a small percentage of rural India, and Drishtee aims to install 10,000 kiosks in the next three years.
Siddhartha Shankar, CEO of Drishtee, said: "There is market potential at the bottom of the pyramid. Drishtee network and services can be effectively used by several companies, both domestic and international. In addition, Drishtee maintains an open software platform that any other service provider can plug their services into to access the rural population at a fraction of the cost that it would take them to set up the entire network themselves."
The company will continue to increase its reach by expanding its channel network and expanding its portfolio of services. Besides increasing the number of traditional computer-based kiosks, Drishtee is also working with mobile application providers and plans to provide villagers with GPRS-enabled mobile phones which can also be used to access information and services.
managing director, Drishtee Dot Com
Shankar said Drishtee is working on several initiatives, which are at various stages of execution, to enhance and expand the products and services offered on the kiosks and mobile phones.
New applications include micro-finance, micro-credit, telemedicine, and even "village business process outsourcing". Shankar explained: "Drishtee has successfully demonstrated that kiosks in the villages can be used in a cost-effective manner for several outsourcing tasks such as data entry and surveys. Drishtee believes that this could become a major revenue earner for several youth in rural India who will be trained at our kiosks."
Drishtee plans to work with leading players in the healthcare sector to pilot a major telemedicine project where it hopes to take quality health services to the rural population.
"That a huge opportunity exists for companies to help in developing the infrastructure in rural India. Be it finance infrastructure, power, communications or roads. Rural India is growing at an enormous rate, and Drishtee would be happy to work with companies having these objectives," Shanker noted.