Every citizen matters
Pitch us on your solution
Majority of government welfare schemes in India are targeted at those living below the poverty line. But citizens are hardly aware of these schemes especially in India's hinterlands. Even if they know about the schemes, the information is often inaccurate and confusing which keeps them away from applying for such schemes. Our technology aims to do away with such discrepancies. Our model is such that we have a two-pronged approach. To make these schemes accessible to citizens we train rural entrepreneurs who use our technology and earn a livelihood in the process. Our service has the potential to create an impact among over 300 million Indians.
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What is the problem you are solving?
A large component of government spending is on social assistance programs. The government of India allocated approximately USD 271.5 billion for social assistance programs in 2017-18. However, many barriers to take up the assistance exist, and coverage rates remain low. Further, application processes can be long, costly and complicated. Our primary survey in some slum areas in Pune found out that even when citizens are cognizant of the scheme and the application processes, there are touts who overcharge with false promises of getting scheme benefits. This was validated after we started operations. In the Koderma district of Jharkhand, shop owners were charging Rs.2500 (USD 35.04) for a PAN Card - document required in India for banking transactions. The legal government fee for this document is Rs110. So these agents were charging citizens in Koderma - a relatively poor area - 22 times of the cost. Thus a technology-based intervention is needed for facilitation of government and private entitlements. About 90% of the entitlements and welfare services are directed at citizens living below the poverty line. Over 200 million people live below the national poverty line as of 2011 - the latest census data available.
Who are you serving?
We are citizens who live below the poverty line, the urban poor and the aspirational worker class. We are helping them improve the quality of their life as well as their family's. By benefitting from various government and private welfare schemes these citizens get the required financial or non-financial support to live better. Welfare schemes in India are typically targeted at improving the overall well being of the family. Thus there are schemes catering to betterment of health, livelihoods, education, financial inclusion, agriculture and so on.
What is your solution?
Haqdarshak is an artificial-intelligence powered mobile app and web platform. The platform is used to screen citizens i.e to collect information and key it in. Once screened, the app shows government and private welfare schemes the citizen is eligible for. This eligibility is determined by our rule-mapping system which is updated at by a team of researchers. Eligible schemes are displayed in the local language and in an easy, lucid manner. This is primarily because we want to plug the information gap between citizens and their entitlements, which in this case are welfare schemes. Since internet connectivity and the use of smartphones is still not heavily penetrated in rural India, we train community-level field workers—who we call as Haqdarshaks —to use our app. These field workers, go door to door and screen citizens, explain the eligible schemes and help in the application process, charging a small fee.
Thus our model is targeting two SDGs at one time. Our work to ease access to welfare schemes is enabling citizens to benefit from direct and indirect financial support from the government thus promoting a sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth. We are also training village-level entrepreneur to use our app and provide last-mile support to apply for entitlements in turn charging a small fee. This model provides a livelihood for these entrepreneurs thus adhering to the goal of full and productive employment and decent work for all.
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Where is your solution team headquartered?Pune, Maharashtra, India
Our solution's stage of development:
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
What differentiates our solution is :
1) The possibility to create a single comprehensive repository of welfare schemes with eligibility rules and information that can serve as a single stop for all. At present, there is no such repository provided either by the various governments or by any private entity
2) A mobile app that promotes an entrepreneurship model, ensures scale and sustainability and enhanced reach of information and awareness drastically especially to the rural areas
3) Creation of a comprehensive repository of citizen data that can be used for various predictions and trends without compromising on privacy
4) Use of all the collected information towards advisory and advocacy to better determine and define welfare programs that are effective.
Describe the core technology that your solution utilizes.
The Mobile and Web app help a citizen discover the schemes that he or she is “eligible” for from among the total list of schemes. This is a very useful feature using technology as without it, the process of identifying suitable schemes manually is very cumbersome as each state has more than 300-500 welfare schemes. The dynamic questionnaire works in the form of a decision-tree traversing the path based on the answers provide. The app has been designed to function in an offline mode. The rules engine and schemes are deployed locally on the app – hence internet connectivity is not required for a user to discover eligible schemes via the app. This again is a unique feature and a very critical one for the success of the technology solution in rural India. The application does an auto-sync with the database whenever internet connectivity is available.
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
Over the last 2.5 years we trained over 4000+ entrepreneurs across India who have collectively reached out to over 170,000 citizens educating them about their eligible welfare schemes. On an average the Haqdarshak entrepreneurs earns Rs3000-4000 ($41-55) a month, which in the rural area is a sizeable additional income. They have helped submit applications for over 60,000 schemes and channelised over Rs200 crore ($29 million+) worth of government funds. Through these schemes citizens have got access to subsidised healthcare, scholarships, free electricity, housing, subsidised loans, financial assistance for business, among thus. The end goal is to uplift these citizens socially and economically.
Select the key characteristics of the population your solution serves.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
The current number of people you’re serving: 170,000
The number you’ll be serving in one year: 1,000,000
The number you’ll be serving in five years: 10,000,000+
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
By 2020, we aim to reach 1 million citizens and help them apply for at least one welfare scheme. We aim to achieve this with our internal capabilities and growth. In the next five years, we want to be operational in all the states in India as well as expand to countries in South Asia and Africa. In India, we want to reach over 50 million citizens through our net work of Haqdarshaks and a new citizen facing mobile app that we are planning to launch. We would want to expand into new financial inclusion related products and services that promote inclusive and equitable growth among the economically disadvantaged.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
1) Since we are working in a low income country, and our model is based on pay per service, there could be initial resistance from citizens to pay: We are working for models where the screening (first step of scheme information, eligibility-wise) is free.
2) Building trust will be an issue because citizens are providing personal and critical information and documentation to a company coming from another country: We are partnering with large organisations and CSR firms which have worked in communities and have a trusted presence and will be able to provide us with their network and support.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
Responses included in the above question.
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How many people work on your solution team?
110 full-time employees.
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
Our core management team is a mix of talented and passionate professionals. Aniket Doegar, our CEO and co-founder has been a Teach for India fellow and has over 10 years of experience in the development sector. Asha Krishnan, co-founder and chief program officer, has over 25 years of experience in the IT sector and has worked for 4 years on the ambitious Aadhaar project - the world's largest biometrics program. Our CTO, Ashwin Gayatri is an alumnus of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay and has more than 25 years of tech experience. Madhura Karnik, our Chief Growth Officer who leads partnership is a graduate of the City University of New York and has worked with S&P, Bloomberg, Reuters and Atlantic Media in the past. All of them bring to the table a common passion and vision of creating impact in a sustainable and scalable manner.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
Our major non-government partners include TATA Trusts, Save the Children, PRADAN, Swades Foundation, Crisil Foundation, DHFL Foundation, JSW Foundation, Tata Power, Ambuja Cements Foundation, ITC, Godrej Properties, Mann Deshi Foundation, UNDP, Aga Khan Foundation, and J-PAL among others.
In addition to the formal agreements stated above, HESPL has also received support from a number of key officials in the Government commending us for our work. Some of these include the Secretary to the Chief Minister, Rajasthan, and the Secretary to the Chief Minister, Uttar Pradesh.
- Madhura Karnik Chief Growth Officer, Haqdarshak Empowerment Solutions Private Limited