The Glab team, comprised of four students from Sloan's Global Entrepreneurship course Nathan Eagle, Sergio Delgado, Amir Hasson, and Prabhat Sinha, spent most of the month of January 2002 working in New Delhi with the 12 person Indian startup, Drishtee. After we completed an initial market overview, Drishtee was chosen simply because it is one of the very few companies in the world that has become profitable by installing computers in rural villages. With only a single entrepreneur as a manager, a staff of about a dozen, and virtually no funding, Drishtee has successfully launched over 80 kiosks throughout rural India. Using a tiered franchise and partnership model, it has enabled a wide range of rural services including access to government programs and benefits, market-related information, and private information exchanges and transactions.
Initially we met with several rural kiosk companies, along with management consultants from BCG Delhi. After analyzing the current market data, it was determined that one of the best way for Drishtee to scale would be to try to increase the kiosk's market penetration. Despite profitability, the initial analysis led to a conclusion that the Drishtee model alone would be relegated to a relatively limited market. Expanding existing kiosks' customer base became our exclusive focus for much of the month.
Our team hypothesized that in order to fully penetrate the market, kiosk services must be expanded beyond customers who are willing to walk to the kiosk itself. There appeared to be two demographics the current model is ignoring: those who live within eight kilometers of the kiosk, but are unable or unwilling to walk there (typically women), or those who live beyond the eight kilometer radius where the kiosk is simply too far away. A handheld computer, when coupled with a kiosk, may the solution to tapping into both demographics and scaling beyond 1% of the market.
In order to test the hypothesis, we brought handheld computers and inexpensive digital cameras into several rural villages and loaned them to existing kiosk entrepreneurs. After participating in the first round of field-tests and training the entrepreneurs, we returned to Delhi with initial results, but left the devices at the kiosks for further testing. Although we only have limited results from these field trials, the kiosk owners were eager to integrate the devices in order to expand both their existing suite of services as well as their customer base. Through weekly usage reports sent back to Cambridge from the kiosks, we hope to quantify this potential in our final report.
Upon returning from the villages, the remaining portion of our time was dedicated to writing up our progress (available online here ) and nurturing partnerships with companies potentially interested in the Drishtee network. We met the executives from Indian businesses including venture capital firms, NGOs, a health diagnostic software company and a handheld device startup.