The fruits of science, technology and innovation should reach the poorest, the remotest and the most vulnerable person for a safe, sustainable and prosperous future for India. The Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) comprises over 700 million people in India. Even as technology becomes more affordable and internet access increasing, a “digital divide” between rich and poor remains. Led by enterprises in the impact space, technological innovations are seeking to bridge this divide. Even more importantly, this is influencing critical sectors of the economy such as
Chennai based NewDigm is providing healthcare solutions at BOP by developing mobile-based Clinical Decision Support apps, real-time monitoring & tracking systems or training village health workers (VHW)The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family”. On the flip side, we see that close to 100 million people fall into poverty annually because of medical payments. Lack of affordable healthcare infrastructure is one of the biggest challenges in the impact space.Recently, we are witnessing a technological revolution in healthcare. Today, enterprises such as NewDigm are using their data driven, mobile based solutions to establish, track and improve healthcare facilities. This is improving access to primary health care and decreasing logistical constraints.
One of the crucial targets of the recent Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015) was to increase access to potable water. Today, India still has the highest number of people without access to potable water. There exists a gross disparity across the country, which has only slightly improved over time. The issue is twofold as lack of potable water leads to severe communicable diseases. Enterprises in this space are trying to solve a problem that affects 90% of the South Asian population – access to potable water. m.PAANI utilizes the power and reach of mobile phones to provide basic services such as safe water. m.Paani runs a customer loyalty program aimed at the BOP under which customers receive clean water credits. On the other hand, Bangalore based NextDrop is developing automated smart water grids and mobile based water availability alerts.
The availability of micro-credit sparked the transformation among rural poor. But, the logistics of maintaining these services often push up the interest rates too high to make it sustainable. Ensuring high repayment rate involves background checks, field inspections, follow-ups and collection, which proportionately increases the interest rate that is charged to the poor. The global average interest and fee rate is estimated at 37 % (sometimes reaching even 60 %).As the internet penetration increases at the bottom of pyramid, a new breed of micro lending services is taking everything online. Zidisha – one such venture is making the entire process digital, reducing the cost to the borrowers by eliminating local field partners completely, facilitating direct interaction between the lenders and computer-literate borrowers, a model enabled by the rapid spread of internet access among the poor of developing countries in recent years. By leveraging technology, Zidisha has been able to reduce cost to the borrower to just 5% of the loan amount.
Energy poverty is rampant in South Asia. Many of these people live in India, where 75 million rural households are not connected to the electrical power grid and another 80 million are underserved by electrical utilities. Lack of access to energy severely affects the quality of life of the people. It is required to run health care facilities, light up schools and run agricultural equipments.Entrepreneurs are leveraging technology to build innovative solutions aimed at increasing access to affordable energy at the BoP. Enterprises such as Mera Gao Power are setting up microgrids to provide clean reliable electricity to villages. On the other hand, Simpa has developed low cost prepaid metering solutions to enable people to pay for their solar pv systems on a usage basis.
Despite initiatives by the government, the standard of education in rural areas is declining. Even after “Right To Education”, over 10 % of children do not attend schools at the primary level – most of them girls. There are fewer committed teachers, lack of proper textbooks and learning material. Infrastructure still remains stagnant. Tackling these complex challenges, enterprises today are going digital to inspire revolutionary changes in the space. Social Cops, for example developed mobile based tracking solutions to track metrics in classroom teaching across India. They also developed a mobile based mapping system to monitor mid-day scheme implementation across schools
People at the BOP are considered to resist technological changes – but this is far from true. Today they are adopting solar lamps, birthing kits, mobile apps as a part and parcel of life. Technology can eliminate, not just alleviate global poverty. Wide availability of mobile phones and rapidly growing internet penetration has opened up unique ways to enable people to access basic services. But to do that, it’s vital that technology be suitable and relevant to the lives of its users. Hence social enterprises need to continue to invest in product innovation geared toward the BOP and the trend seems to be in the right direction. Find about more such social enterprises on www.impactpreneurs.com – the world’s largest listing of social enterprises.