Gramdoot in Rajasthan

An EcoTimes story on a project in Rajasthan which “signals a potential revolution in the field of rural communications.”

A fixed line exchange (say one providing 500 lines) has to be able to achieve a minimum number of subscribers to run optimally. However, the costs involved and the price of telephony makes it too expensive for rural users.

Aksh Broadband, a sister company of Aksh Optifibre Ltd, has apparently found a way around this problem. The strategy involves two elements.

The first is to bundle communication services with a number of other on-line facilities operated through Gramdoot kiosks. This opens up a number of services, including on-line land records, market information, certificates of caste, domicile, income etc., filing complaints on-line to the district center, on-line video-conferencing with other villagers, and not the least, cable TV.

Each of these services is provided at a charge of between Rs 5 and Rs 20, barring cable TV, which costs Rs 105 per month. A 3-minute web-conference with a neighbouring villager costs Rs 5, while applying for and receiving a copy of land records (patta) costs Rs 20.

Aksh is investing Rs 20 crore (USD 4 million) in the project, and has covered 400 gram panchayats. The future: “It will take roughly 80-90 cable connections per village for the company to recover the set up costs of Rs 20 crore for the Jaipur district. The agreement to connect another 14 districts (4,000 gram panchayats covering 13,000 villages) by 2005 has already been signed with the state government, and will roll out in the most populous areas of Rajasthan, thereby reaching some 1.5 crore people.”

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.