Drishtee started its journey as a technology solution provider in the year 2000, bringing services offered by the government at the doorstep of the villagers. The model pioneered an ICT revolution in the country which was later carried forward by the Government as the Common Service Center (CSC) model. The modest start, in a remote central Indian district of Dhar, has yielded more than 150,000 similar centers across rural Indian subcontinent, Africa and South east Asia.
However, villages in India continued to face a basic sustainability challenge, forcing migration of members of families to cities in search of livelihood. We understood from the rural communities that the spirit of entrepreneurship, which had been their mainstay of livelihood generation, was slowly dying. This slow death was partly due to the subsidy culture adopted by the Government but the major reason was the absence of supply chain. As cities grew, markets retreated and became more sophisticated. To confront this challenge, Drishtee reorganized itself to be an efficient last mile distribution network in 2007. It took us nearly 4 years and innumerable failures to become an effective last mile for the rural stores. But the plan was to become the most preferred first mile out of the village as well. While, the community cries for access to market, we realized that their output was not market ready. There was shortage of skills needed to effectively compete in the urban market.
In 2012, we launched an integrated approach for lasting impact. We called it the 4 C approach – Community, Capacity, Capital and Channel. We started moving forward by engaging deeply with rural communities and making them co-owners in all our initiatives. It was they who guided us to identify their skills and gaps. We launched a separate organisation, DSDC (Drishtee Skill Development Center) focused on training rural youth in rural skills such as textile, agriculture and construction. With support of Government and GIF, we fist started training in textiles. Today, that effort with continued unflinching support from GIF has resulted in a producer’s organisation, DRAP, which aims to break even in terms of its operational expense within the coming financial year. Similarly, the initial training in organic and smart farming techniques resulted in an experimental model by the name of Madhukrishi. Gharaunda is a an example of innovative rural housing. While, a portion of the trained candidates have so far been utilized to develop model enterprises, we are also providing trained candidates to small corporate and social entities who are working in the related sectors. In the case of agriculture, we aim to train and place men and women as agriculture extension workers. These young (would be ) master farmers come from the poorest families and general tend to go back to become change agents in their own villages, after working for a few years in local agriculture organisations.
Apart from capacity gaps, community needed access to bank linkage and easy access to capital. Way back in 2012, there were merely 10% of Indians having a bank account. In rural areas nearly 96% were unbanked. Drishtee partnered with the largest bank in India, State Bank of India, to start e-banking kiosks. There are several other organisations who partnered with different banks which has today resulted in a complete turnaround. Today, less than 40% of rural India remains unbanked. The technology enabled platform not just provides for opening of bank accounts but all other financial services such as credit, savings, insurance, remittance etc. Drishtee presently has trained and setup 1600 customer service points across 6 states. Overall, 2.3 Million bank accounts have been opened. We are aiming to work towards 100% banking coverage by the end of 2020.
Drishtee has traveled some distance in its 16 year journey. Each step has had several challenges and many failures. But this journey could not have been as enjoyable had it not been for the support of millions of rural families and several like minded partners, who have joined us and walked alongwith us in complete trust.