Time and again we’ve seen remote or underserviced areas acting as hotbeds of innovation and entrepreneurialism. In places where access to goods and services is limited, creative approaches must be found. For instance, we’ve previously featured Nomanini’s rugged, wireless cash register made for South African vendors with no electricity or internet, and Endaga, the device that brings phone signal to deprived rural areas. Both of these mesh global technologies with local needs.
Now two Indian companies are looking to make life a little easier for those living in slums — and to cash in on a huge rural market — by creating a delivery network that can distribute to even the hardest to reach areas. Snapdeal, one of the India’s biggest online marketplaces, have teamed up with alternative distribution network FINO PayTech to offer over 1,000 products to those that live in remote areas and lack internet access.
The scheme aims to bring over 5,000 kiosks to 65 cities and 70,000 rural areas by the end of the financial year. These kiosks will be manned by village-level entrepreneurs and will come equipped with computers and internet connections, meaning locals can browse, order and collect a range of goods which would otherwise be inaccessible to them.
The effects could be huge. Kunal Bahl, Snapdeal’s CEO, believes that the potential market could amount to 50 to 100 million new consumers in over five million low-income households. There are also likely to be big consequences for consumers, with more than a thousand aspirational and practical products available at the kiosks.
The advantage of the scheme is that it taps into a vast, and previously under-utilised marketplace. Rishi Gupta, Executive Director at FINO PayTech claims that “the innovative assisted e-commerce model brings the ease and benefit of e-tailing to more than 70 percent of the country’s population not connected to internet but [who are] aspirational and willing to explore online shopping.”
The scheme is a great example of two companies bending a global technology around local issues. Could this catch on in other areas which lack widespread internet access?