Chalo logon ko suvidha provide karen (Let’s give people a service). It was with this aim that Paresh Rajde decided to set up the mom-and-pop network of retail shops and centres that today provides over 300 services covering a variety of sectors to consumers across the length and breadth of India. It is a business that empowers consumers and promotes inclusive growth even as it gives new meaning to Internet-related delivery of services, both government and business. It allows people, especially in rural areas, to access technology and avail services, which they otherwise would have been denied
Not everyone in India has access to the Internet nor are all willing to give up the comfort of using cash to settle transactions. Using technology at the back-end, Suvidhaa provides government-to-consumer (G2C) and business-to-consumer (B2C) services, which put the customer at ease. Simply put, Suvidhaa’s pioneering Service Commerce (S-Commerce®) model has married the convenience of e-transactions with the comfort of cash transactions. The S-Commerce® model has brought about a significant shift from the traditional e-commerce model, enabling consumers to access a wide range of services, thereby bridging the divide between the technology-haves and the technology-have-nots and between rural and urban India. Suvidhaa has used the power of technology to allow customers to enjoy transacting, eased accessibility, opened up a plethora of choices, even as it has ensured speed and reliability of service delivery. With over 55,000 touch-points across 2800+ Towns spanning 28 States in the country, Suvidhaa is a platform that provides a medium for transactions for 5 per cent of the country’s population.
“When I started thinking of the Suvidhaa model, I did not know anything about inclusion—social, digital or financial. Those buzzwords may have been there, but I did not know anything about them. Today, however, we are empowering a large number of people—both consumers and our partners—and even enabling the physically handicapped to earn a decent livelihood. We have also seen that women, who are normally not employed anywhere but who are educated, join our programme to earn decent incomes.”
Suvidhaa Points consist of kirana (small grocery) stores, mobile stores, medicals stores, STD booths, cyber cafés and travel agents, among others. It offers a variety of services such as bookings for hotels, railway, air and bus tickets; making bill payments; buying telecom products and availing financial services like insurance, loans, and lifestyle-related services.
Paresh Rajde, Founder & MD, Suvidhaa Infoserve, says the interiors of the country have for long been considered a secondary market, especially when it comes to sectors like FMCG, automotive, retail and telecommunication. Today, however, rural India has become a market in its own right, with disposable incomes on the rise, supportive government policies and rising consumer awareness. It is this market that Suvidhaa is seeking to tap. And to do this Suvidhaa has used available technologies, recreating the business model to be able to integrate all services on its platform. In the process it has created a physical network that is made up of kirana stores and other retailers, who have now become its partners.
While inclusive growth was not the primary aim when the Suvidhaa network was set up, it is promotion of partnerships with small retailers and kirana shops that is indirectly promoting social inclusion in a very real way. It has enabled a large number of people to become technology friendly, raised incomes across a wide spectrum of the population and successfully created awareness about the latest digital technologies available, for small retailers. Suvidhaa is working with leading NGOs and women’s organisations to empower more women, creating opportunities for them to better livings.
While social inclusion has been an indirect fallout of the Suvidhaa experience, it is in the area of digital inclusion that the company has really succeeded. Rajde says digital inclusion was the basic starting point for Suvidhaa. “Suvidhaa provides services to people who are unable to conduct online transactions, who are unable to avail services on technology platforms like mobiles or the Internet. In fact, one must remember that today only 8 per cent of the Indian population uses the Internet for conducting business transactions. It is the remaining 92 per cent that Suvidhaa seeks to bring online, at their convenience, in their neighbourhoods, and at a cost that is affordable to them.”
The Suvidhaa model has also enabled people to optimise their time schedules. Now, people are able to conduct different transactions or avail various services at a time that is convenient to them. In fact, it is Suvidhaa that first took the railway ticketing system to touch-points that anyone could access at their convenience and ease. It has created a retail network that extends into the countryside. It is a model that was subsequently replicated by the railways themselves through the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).
Similarly, Suvidhaa has been able to take the pain out of paying one’s insurance premiums, having tied up with the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) to enable “anytime, anywhere” payments. Earlier, when people shifted from one city to another, they either had to have their policies transferred to LIC offices in the new city or continue paying premiums from where they had taken the policy, a time-consuming and irritable process. Suvidhaa has been able to simplify the procedure, creating a model where the central database of the insurance company accepts payments, preventing policy forfeiture or lapse.
Suvidhaa has also tied up with various banks to enable remittance by migrant labourers. “We have created the whole model in such way that it takes care of the all compliances as far as the Reserve Bank of India’s ‘know your customer’ (KYC) norms go. Today, customers can walk into our outlet at anytime of the day, use our banking channel and reach out to other consumers or their families,” affirms Rajde.
The challenge Suvidhaa faced when it started out was not technology but getting service providers to agree to use their platform. Service providers were hesitant about joining a platform that Suvidhaa success in convincing service provides on the basis of enabling and reaching customers in our neighbourhood As a result Suvidhaa has created nearly 20 categories of services. It has also been able to convince small-town retailers and shopkeepers to provide its bouquet of services through a single platform at no extra cost, in most services.
Another challenge that Suvidhaa was able to overcome was in ensuring that its services were available across the length and breadth of the country. This helped it discount the fears of various service providers, who were looking at pan-India networks for distribution. It was this creation of a wide network across India that enabled Suvidhaa to attract a wide range of investors, including Shapoorji Pallonji as its angel investor, followed by Norwest Ventures, Reliance Capital, IFC and then the Japanese giant Mitsui.Another challenge that Suvidhaa was able to overcome was in ensuring that its services were available across the length and breadth of the country. This helped it discount the fears of various service providers, who were looking at pan-India networks for distribution. It was this creation of a wide network across India that enabled Suvidhaa to attract a wide range of investors, including Shapoorji Pallonji as its angel investor, followed by Norwest Ventures, Reliance Capital, IFC and then the Japanese giant Mitsui.
Suvidhaa has been able to take the pain out of paying one’s insurance premiums, having tied up with the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) to enable “anytime, anywhere” payments
The Suvidhaa model ensures that retailers have multiple sources of earning. The first and foremost source is from every transaction. Here, the earnings vary, depending on the kind of service offered. This earning is over and above what the retailer would have otherwise earned and for which he/she would have had to keep some inventory. In the case of Suvidhaa, there is no inventory, no holding cost and only a nominal Internet charges. More importantly, using the Suvidhaa platform enables a retailer to increase footfalls and customer loyalty.
However, it is in empowerment of the public that Suvidhaa has been most successful at. The model has been able to generate employment, especially in rural areas, with every outlet creating at least two to three jobs. It has helped deepen income generation in a way that no other service provider has been able to. It has also enabled end customers, especially daily-wage earners, to save on time and money. More importantly, every transaction is secure and technologically safe, and both the retailer and the customer have no fear of losing any money.
It is this security that has enabled the company to foster inclusive growth even among different corporate entities. Today, different companies can offer their individual services through the Suvidhaa platform with the assurance that they will reach their target customers (last mile) across the length and breadth of the country.
Suvidhaa has created a model for corporate inclusion that did not exist earlier. While every corporate entity can create its own distribution and service network, Suvidhaa has provided the means for over 300 service providers to pool their resources on a single platform, thereby saving considerable resources and capital. Says Rajde, “Today, Suvidhaa has more than 300 service partners, from the railways to insurance companies to telecom companies and utility companies like Electricity Boards etc. Suvidhaa has created the necessary touch-points that enable these companies to reach out to their customers, riding on the infrastructure that has been set up by it at a fraction of the cost they otherwise would have had to spend. While individual corporate does have the necessary resources to set up touch-points on their own, Suvidhaa provides them with a platform for a small service fee and needs no infrastructure, is manpower free, hence highly economical.” More importantly, it gives mobility to a customer in accessing his service provider from wherever he is based and does not limit him or her to any particular location.
Suvidhaa is actually enabling us to expand our reach to our consumers without having to invest in that infrastructure, without having to invest in people or in IT and network. Obviously this is a gain to us
“Suvidhaa is actually enabling us to expand our reach to our consumers without having to invest in that infrastructure, without having to invest in people or in IT and network. Obviously this is a gain to us,” says Gopal K Saxena, Chief Executive, BSES Rajdhani Power Limited.
Consider for example, bank remittances. While earlier it was a tedious process that cost both time and money, the Suvidhaa platform has simplified the whole process. The company has tied up with AXIS Bank and YES Bank and transfers are almost immediate. More importantly, such remittances can be made even after banking hours. Suvidhaa has simplified the complete process, with the result that its retailer only has to log on to the Suvidhaa platform to carry out a transaction, while the actual transaction with the bank happens at the back-end. It is basically a Cash-to-Bank transaction for people who are unbanked and those who do not have access to internet banking. Nilanjan Majumdar, VP-Financial Inclusion, Axis Bank says, “Banks shy away from rural areas. They do not know how to tap this market. But opportunities such as the Suvidhaa distribution network decongest branch traffic and help the bank reach the lower end customer who does not have branch access. This is the value that the partnership (with Suvidhaa) brings to the table.”
Suvidhaa has also facilitated empowerment and sharing of knowledge. In this context, Suvidhaa has also extended its hand to the Government to provide various e-services that were available through the Common Service Centres (CSCs) to the common man. “Even as the Government is setting up Internet kiosks across India, it is the Suvidhaa platform that they will ride on,” says Rajde. These CSCs will not have to create their own platforms, since Suvidhaa already has built one, and people can easily avail of the various services that the government plans to offer under its e-governance initiative. Thus, people in rural areas can avail of services that are relevant to them like fertilizer-based or agro-based information, while people in urban areas can utilise services that meet their needs.
Suvidhaa is about convenience, empowerment and connecting people digitally to services which they are currently not able to access. Access to services as per the customer’s convenience is the power that drives Suvidhaa even as it empowers over 10 million customers across 2800+ towns spanning 28 States in India. Suvidhaa endeavours to influence business service modules by riding on the advantage of IT innovations. It has successfully created a technological environment for the benefit of the common man that delivers high performance, saves time and money, and ensures higher customer satisfaction.
Payment of electricity bills has become really easy. Earlier I would waste almost half a day to pay my bill at the electricity office, where the billing counter would open from 9 am to 4 pm. Using Suvidhaa takes just a couple of minutes and it is hassle-free.Munnakant from Zila Gonda, UP
When I started Suvidhaa four years ago, I was not sure if this would run. But slowly work has picked up and I now employ two full-time employees to run the business. They earn their salaries from this work.Hemlata, Retailer
When I came from my village I was getting Rs 4,000 per month. This has now increased to Rs 6,000. I have also learnt to operate a computer to operate the Suvidhaa system even though I have studied only till Class 7.Praveen, Employee with a retailer
I have come to Mumbai from Uttar Pradesh. Time is money for me. I have to forego my daily wage if I spend hours in a bank. Now I send money back home through the Suvidhaa network and it only takes a phone call for me to confirm whether my family has received the money or not.Abdullah Khan, Labourer
The people living in my colony mostly belong to West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and remote Maharashtra. We provide day-to-day services to them like bill payment, phone recharge, and booking of bus and rail tickets. The workload has increased so much that we do about 50 bill payments, 5-7 remittances and nearly 10 ticket bookings every day.Nandadip R Gowde, Retailer
Ever since a Suvidhaa outlet has opened in my village, it has become easy to obtain birth, death or domicile certificates. Otherwise, one had to travel all the way to the tehsil office, which is quite far. It was time consuming and at times one had to let go of one full day’s wage.Om Prakash, Citizen
When I used to send money back home in UP through a bank it used to take two days. From here, it takes only a couple of hours.Jiyalal, daily wage earner
Whether it is payment of a telephone bill, a recharge or booking of a train ticket, all these services are available on one platform. Earlier for all these services one had to go to different places.Krishna Hurugade, rickshaw puller
I get about 80 customers a day. Most of them come to book bus tickets. It is not only convenient for them but they also save about Rs 20 on each ticket.Anil Khandekar, Retailer
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