TECH TALK: Transforming Rural India: Tarahaat and Drishtee

Tarahaat and Drishtee are two projects being driven by non-government organisations, focusing on creating entrepreneur (franchisee) driven information kiosks and community centres in rural areas.


TARAhaat, named after the all-purpose haat (meaning a village bazaar), comprises a commercially viable model for bringing relevant information, products and services via the Internet to the unserved rural market of India. It is set up as a partnership between Development Alternatives (DA), an NGO focused on promoting sustainable development in India, and its rural marketing arm, Technology and Action for Rural Advancement (TARA). It won the Stockholm Challenge Award in the Global Village category in 2001.

Here are more details from the Digital Partners website:
TARAhaat combines a mother portal,, supported by franchised networks of village cybercafes and delivery systems to provide a full range of services its clients. The subsidiary units include:

TARAdhaba – will provide the villager connectivity and access to a new world.
TARAbazaar – will provide access to products and services needed by rural households, farmers, and industries.
TARAvan – will deliver goods ordered.
TARAdak – will connect the rural families to the daughter married far off and to the son posted on the front.
TARAguru – a decentralized university will provide mentoring and consultancy to village-based mini- enterprises.
TARAscouts / TARAreporter – will collect relevant information for the portal.
TARAvendor – will run the store that will cater to products available at Tarabazaar.
TARAcard – will enable the villager to order goods and services on credit.

The economics of the TARAdhaba franchise are critical to the success of the network. The main costs of running a TARAdhaba are: loan servicing, staffing, utilities and royalties to TARAhaat. Preliminary business plans show that the break-even for a TARAdhaba with two terminals is around Rs. 600 ($15) per day, or Rs. 20,000 ($450) per month. The revenues to cover this must come from several streams. The owner will charge each user for the time spent at the terminal. (In the cybercafes found in cities all over India, the current charges range from Rs. 50 to 100 — $ 1 to 2 — per hour).

In addition, the TARAdhaba will charge a brokerage fee for certain kinds of transactions and information delivery. Other revenue sources include displaying ads from local businesses and professionals, downloading educational materials and accessing official information, application forms, etc. TARAhaat’s revenues come from the wide range of services it provides to its end-clients, the villagers; its franchises in the form of royalties and service fees; its advertisers; its vendors and its other business partners, all of whom will benefit by the growing market for the their products and services made possible by TARAhaat.

More details are available in a paper at the Digital Dividend website.


Drishtee is an organizational platform for developing IT enabled services to rural and semi-urban populations through the usage of state-of-the-art software. The services it enables include access to government programs and benefits, market related information, and private information exchanges and transactions. It builds upon the Gyandoot project of Madhya Pradesh. Here is more:

Drishtee is a platform for rural networking and marketing services for enabling e-governance, education and health services. It is a state-of-the-art software which facilitates communication and information interchange within a localized intranet between villages and a district center. This communication backbone has been supplemented by a string of rural services for example, Avedan, Land Records, Gram Daak (mailing software), Gram Haat (virtual market place), Vaivahiki (Matrimonial), Shikayat (online grievance redressal), Mandi Information System and a host of other customized services.

These services are provided through Drishtee in a village (or a group of villages) by a local villager, who owns the kiosk after having it financed through a Govt. sponsored scheme. The employment thus generated leads to a new breed of IT literate generation who can pay for their meager loans with their earnings and become a role model for the younger generation.

Drishtees business model is driven by a village entrepreneur who is suitably trained to handle user-friendly software. The unit revenue earned by this kiosk owner is a few cents per transaction, but the volume of the operations and an intrinsic demand enable viability very early in the operation. This individual, educated to 10th Grade or above, becomes a role model and a messenger of valuable information for the villagers. With a minimum size of 800 families as a prerequisite for a kiosks viability, a total of 100 such kiosks or more can be successfully set up within an average Indian District. A small fraction of the combined total revenue of such centers is enough to interest a local businessman to act as a channel partner and invest for the operational cost at the outset. This partner performs the role of a franchisee and adds value in scouting for kiosk owners, developing relations with District government, and maintaining the entire network of operations within the district.

Drishtees vision is to set up 50,000 Information Kiosks all over India within a span of six years. These kiosks would potentially serve a market of 500 million people, with aggregate discretionary purchasing power of Rs. 100 billion (USD 2 billion). So far, it has set up 90 kiosks across five Indian states.

Tomorrow: eChoupals

TECH TALK Transforming Rural India+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.