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Start-up culture altering rural India for better

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By Surbhi Moudgil

Rural India has several issues that we keep reading about, seeing them on TV or learning from various sources. Some of them are in the areas of energy needs, sanitation, agriculture, drinking water, cleanliness etc. All these can be addressed through public as well as private endeavours.

The Government has made several policies and launched campaigns in this regard, however, it can only do it till an extent. Some entrepreneurs, along with those looking to start and enterprise in such areas, have taken this seriously to help out the rural population. This way, they are not only gaining the satisfaction of serving the society but they are earning money as well.

At present, India is seeing a surge in the ‘start-up culture’. The trend for entrepreneurship is on the rise in India. People are getting familiar with the economic rubrics of the country. However, entrepreneurship cannot be sustained in an unorganised environment, rather it needs a structured trajectory to succeed.

People are slowly shifting towards start-ups in the rural India as it is giving opportunities of colliding social development with employment. Rural entrepreneurship has its own pros and cons. Some of the issues that a budding entrepreneur can face in rural areas are electricity, team issues, language problems, investment etc.

Doing business in India might not be easy but the budding ‘start-up culture’ and, the government bringing in policies to foster them, are creating phenomenal opportunities for entrepreneurs.

However, these must not act as deterrents to those who want to make a change.

Rural entrepreneurship is expected to do value addition to the existing rural setup and engage a large number of human resources. Rural areas of India offer a lot of variety for social enterprise. From chemical to minerals, engineering and non-engineering, handicrafts and cottage industry, to sanitation, water and energy, the scope is unlimited and results could change the face of India.

Technology needs to be tweaked according to rural needs for providing what suits the rural consumer. There are entrepreneurs who are intercepting these nuances to create unique solutions for the villagers.

IKure Techsoft based in Kolkata sets up rural health centres where doctors are available through the week and pharmacists dispense only accredited medicines. Sujay Santra, the founder, got this idea when he realised that his relatives in a West Bengal village could not relate to his work at a US technology firm.

“I was not doing anything which would impact them directly,” he was quoted as saying to a newspaper.

On the other hand, Sasisekar Krish makes image and video processing products for agriculture and healthcare at his company nanoPix based in Karnataka. Farmers use this technology to categorise agriculture products like cashew by shape, size, colour and quality. The same technology also helps analyse blood smears to detect infectious diseases.

Another such start-up in the rural setup is Ignus which provides its students tablets for studying. It enables the students to connect with premium lecturers across India with the help of pre-recorded educational sessions. It supports those village students who cannot afford to migrate to cities or pay big money for coaching. Mervin Rosario, the founder of Ignus, said, “Students are now more enthusiastic and happy due to better quality and closer proximity of study centre.”

Such entrepreneurs are altering rural India for the better by investing into the initiatives that are bringing socio-economic change in the villages. These are not just money-making schemes for people, but genuine efforts towards decreasing the disparity in urban and rural India.

Doing business in India might not be easy but the budding ‘start-up culture’ and, the government’s upcoming policies to foster them are creating phenomenal opportunities for entrepreneurs. The people must take advantage of these opportunities. This will not only develop the rural region and population, but also add to the overall well being of the Indian economy and its youthful human resources.

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Refugee Communities Can Be Built By Tech Industries

Mikkelsen said the initiative was a win-win as it would also benefit companies by slashing costs.

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Refugees
Congolese families sit at the Kyangwali refugee settlement camp, Uganda, March 19, 2018. A California company is testing an app in Uganda that lets refugees earn money for AI training. VOA

Companies could help refugees rebuild their lives by paying them to boost artificial intelligence (AI) using their phones and giving them digital skills, a tech nonprofit said Thursday.

REFUNITE has developed an app, LevelApp, which is being piloted in Uganda to allow people who have been uprooted by conflict to earn instant money by “training” algorithms for AI.

Wars, persecution and other violence have uprooted a record 68.5 million people, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

People forced to flee their homes lose their livelihoods and struggle to create a source of income, REFUNITE co-chief executive Chris Mikkelsen told the Trust Conference in London.

Rohingya, Myanmar, refugees
Rohingya refugees cross floodwaters at Thangkhali refugee camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district. VOA

“This provides refugees with a foothold in the global gig economy,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s two-day event, which focuses on a host of human rights issues.

$20 a day for AI work

A refugee in Uganda currently earning $1.25 a day doing basic tasks or menial jobs could make up to $20 a day doing simple AI labeling work on their phones, Mikkelsen said.

REFUNITE says the app could be particularly beneficial for women as the work can be done from the home and is more lucrative than traditional sources of income such as crafts.

The cash could enable refugees to buy livestock, educate children and access health care, leaving them less dependant on aid and helping them recover faster, according to Mikkelsen.

Rohingya, Myanmar, refugees
Rohingya refugee women wait outside of a medical center at Jamtoli camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. VOA

The work would also allow them to build digital skills they could take with them when they returned home, REFUNITE says.

“This would give them the ability to rebuild a life … and the dignity of no longer having to rely solely on charity,” Mikkelsen told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Teaching the machines

AI is the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that normally require human intelligence.

It is being used in a vast array of products from driverless cars to agricultural robots that can identify and eradicate weeds and computers able to identify cancers.

Refugees
In this Aug. 27, 1994 file photo, U.S. Coast Guard crew from the cutter Staten Island are hindered by rough seas in the Florida Straits as they attempt to rescue Cuban refugees. VOA

In order to “teach” machines to mimic human intelligence, people must repeatedly label images and other data until the algorithm can detect patterns without human intervention.

REFUNITE, based in California, is testing the app in Uganda where it has launched a pilot project involving 5,000 refugees, mainly form South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo. It hopes to scale up to 25,000 refugees within two years.

Also Read: Rohingyas Repatriation to Myanmar Scrapped by Bangladesh

Mikkelsen said the initiative was a win-win as it would also benefit companies by slashing costs.

Another tech company, DeepBrain Chain, has committed to paying 200 refugees for a test period of six months, he said. (VOA)