Bridging the Digital Divide Between Bharat & India

  • Technology can create massive impact in the development of rural India
  • Aadhar has transcended the language barrier in the country and addresses even those who cannot read or write
  • Affordable solutions are imperative without compromising on product quality for the growth of scalable business models and entrepreneurship in this segment.

On July 4, IVCA and Avaana hosted their debut webinar under their Expert Circle series on the topic -‘Bridging the digital divide between Bharat and India’. The panelists included Mr. Anil Agrawal, Joint Secretary, DPIIT; Mr. Alok Mittal, Co-founder & CEO, Indifi; and Mr. Mekin Maheshwari, Founder, Ms. Anjali Bansal, Founder, Avaana moderated the session.

Has COVID led to the accelerated pace of digitization in the country? How can services be made accessible for Rural Bharat? How can we support microentrepreneurs? How has Bharat evolved from being at the bottom of the entrepreneurship opportunity to be a business model for startups? How to scale up innovative business models?

These are some of the questions that were answered by our distinguished panelists in the webinar. Ms. Bansal started off by sharing that the progress of digitization has started at a move faster rate during the COVID time in order to adapt to the changing environment. Right from the microentrepreneurs and MSMEs to large corporations, digitization has impacted us all which will have a cascading impact on our future.  Mr. Agrawal emphasized the importance to create the technology tools that can reach out to the rural masses to empower and improve their quality of life. He highlighted that the people in Bharat speak local languages rather than English, it is imperative to provide solutions in their local languages to create an impact. He also added that we need to look beyond the penetration of smartphones and use features of a simple phone for disseminating information to that last person. Mr. Agrawal also underlined some of the regulatory support from the government for promoting the digitization of businesses during and post-COVID. 

Mr. Maheshwari shared his perspective on the digital divide as well as the bridging of this divide during the COVID. While sharing the example of StepOne and how in the past few months, telephone-based solutions have come up that allowed people to reach out for a variety of needs for central government helplines through their initiatives, Mr. Maheshwari highlighted the importance of using existing tech solutions to meet the immediate needs and demands.  Mr. Mittal talked about a couple of principles that we can follow to create the path to solve issues for that last person in the queue. He highlighted that we need to ensure that quality is not compromised for the sake of affordability and reach. He also mentioned that Bharat is a pool of business opportunities. However, we need to solve for design issues, such as the software layer and how the interaction interface would look like to the end-user who is at the bottom of the pyramid. These are valuable issues both from the social and commercial aspects. 

During the discussion, the panelists talked about the key role, technology is playing during the COVID pandemic. For instance, several initiatives have come up both from the government and private sector in healthcare and education, primarily where existing technologies are being used to connect the end consumer with the services, be it through teleconsultation with doctors or online learnings. They also mentioned some of the emerging innovations that have come up and the growth path for both – social and technology-led entrepreneurship. The speakers participated in a Q&A, where they answered the questions and concerns raised by the attendees. 

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The Indian Private Equity & Venture Capital Association is India’s apex association representing the interests of country’s private equity & venture capital industry.