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     ICT & Rural Entrepreneurship

In keeping with its mandate to empower rural and marginalized communities through ICT with the purpose of enabling them to integrate with the mainstream economy, TARAhaat's latest venture - ICT enabled Enterprise Development and Support Services- is an exciting step forward. It focuses on providing entrepreneurship opportunities to youth, women and self-help groups through the rapidly expanding network of TARAkendras, TARAhaat's rural business-cum-community centers. When ready, the Enterprise Development Support and Service (EDSS) will add a critical dimension to the scope of services provided by TARAhaat, or indeed any experiment in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) enabled services for rural India!

To meet the most important and widespread need in rural India - Jobs, the next generation of services under development focuses on the promotion of micro and small enterprises through a unique, comprehensive Enterprise Development and Support Programme.
There are more than 600,000 villages in India and around 700 million people live in villages. Many villages are relatively deprived in terms of basic amenities and services, especially those related to education, health, sanitation and empowerment. There is a need to improve the quality of life in villages to achieve overall national development.

Indian Space Programme started in early 60’s has become largely self-reliant with capability to design and build satellites for providing space services and to launch those using indigenously designed and developed launch vehicles. Over the years, India has achieved a notable progress in the design, development and operation of space systems, as well as, using them for vital services like telecommunications, television & radio broadcasting, meteorology, disaster warning as well as natural resources mapping, monitoring and management.
What is this new venture all about?

The EDSS is an innovative experiment in addressing a critical need in rural India employment. Micro and mini enterprises can be a driving force for the rural economy, seen as key to addressing the 15 million new jobs needed every year in India. Small and local enterprises together account for the largest number of jobs in the country and have shown the positive impact that they can have on individuals and communities. The service is also in line with the Government of India focus on rural enterprise and addresses the broader objective of the Eighth Millennium Development Goal that calls for cooperation with the private sector to address youth unemployment and make available to all the benefits of new technologies.

The proposed service will be a comprehensive package comprising an Enterprise Package for technical training and financial linkages, an Entrepreneurship Development Programme for understanding business set-up, planning and management and a web-based Business Support System for on-going support. A network of local consultants is also being developed as an integral part of the venture.

Entrepreneurship Development Programme

The objective of the Entrepreneurship Development Programme is to motivate rural youth towards entrepreneurship, develop their business understanding and skills and empower them to independently establish and manage successful enterprises. It covers the basics of identification, setting up and management of businesses to meet the needs of budding as well as existing entrepreneurs.
The training is delivered through a multimedia platform.

Enterprise Packages (MCR and Poultry Farming)

The enterprise packages have been developed to provide rural unemployed persons the options to acquire technical training in a variety of different businesses. To begin with, broiler-based poultry farming and Micro Concrete Roofing (MCR) tiles manufacturing have been selected. These enterprises have been selected based on the criteria of scalability, sustainability and replicability. MCR, a technology developed by DA, has specifically been selected as it is a waste recycling based enterprise. The enterprise packages teach the entrepreneur about the entire business, from an introduction to the sector to the detailed production process to the specific management methods.

Web-based Business Support System (Ask the Expert/ FAQ)

The web-based business support system provides entrepreneurs with ongoing support, even after the training period is complete. It is a computer-based system that does not rely on live internet connectivity and has a very user-friendly, multi-lingual interface. The system integrates two applications; the first is an exhaustive database of questions categorized by enterprise, domain and region, called the FAQ Database. It is designed on a search engine model allowing for free text, keyword based and category-based searches.
The second application is called the Ask the Expert service, and allows entrepreneurs to submit queries to which he/she has not found answers in the FAQ database.
The queries are submitted through a user-friendly, multi-lingual web-site in multilingual voice or text format along with pictures. The queries are stored in the computer until it connects to the internet and is transmitted to experts identified by TARAhaat. The entrepreneurs can expect answers from the experts within 48 hours.

TARAguru- Entrepreneur Mentor

Local consultants, known as TARAgurus, represent the virtual TARAguru or teacher in physical form and assist the entrepreneurs with on-site problems and provide standard services such as project proposal corrections, creating linkages and so on.

How is TARAhaat's EDSS Unique?

TARAhaat's ICT based EDSS attempts to address existing limitations to rural enterprise development in a unique fashion. To begin with, the EDSS will be an exhaustive package designed to support entrepreneurs through every stage of the business life cycle. The content and delivery will be customized to the various regional languages and other local needs, keeping the end user in mind.

An important outcome of the EDSS would be the framework, engines and tool kit for delivery, as a base for future enterprise packages that can be rolled out, in an economically sustainable and scalable manner. While the focus is on unemployed youth and women, the experience from this project and the enterprise packages can be adapted to meet the needs of other audiences as well as contextualised to other geographies.

Will ICT Work?

ICT provides the key to servicing potential entrepreneurs located in the large and highly dispersed geographical canvas that is rural India, cost effectively. Sporadic initiatives across the country have shown the potential of ICT as an effective tool. Our own efforts at TARAhaat have been very encouraging and give us the confidence to go forward with this ambitious plan.
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