‘Rubanomics’ is what we need for the growth of rural urbans in India, says 1Bridge Founder Madan Padaki

16th Dec 2017
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This Bengaluru-based social entrepreneur is making sure that small towns and villages in India are bridged with last-mile services platform that provides choice and convenience to rural consumers.

Madan Padaki’s 1Bridge is capturing the aspirations of the youth residing in small towns and villages of Karnataka and is providing wings to their entrepreneurial zest.

"We rarely understand what the rural consumer wants. We do not hear the voices of the youth," said Madan at YourStory MobileSparks 2017 in Bengaluru today.

1Bridge, founded by Madan in 2016, is an end-to-end, last-mile platform that provides a wide range of products and services at the doorsteps of Ruban — rural urban — consumers. Using innovative outreach activities, the mobile-based tech platform aims to make customer engagement easier.

The rural market opportunity

Over a period of time, Madan observed that companies failed to address the large consumer base residing in rural and semi-urban areas.

Across the 650,000 villages, there are 400 million consumers making up to 30 percent of population. Consumption patterns in these rural areas are increasingly following similar trends as that of urban areas. However, rural areas do not have access to the products and services easily available in metro cities. Madan explained,

We looked at Airbnb and we asked how do we apply the same logic to target the unfulfilled aspirations of rural consumers. At the same time, we thought of creating sustainable careers for the rural youth and that is how the concept of 1Bridge came up.

The last-mile connectivity

The organisation nurtures local entrepreneurs who in turn connect the rural market to brands such as LG, Tata, Bajaj, and Yamaha, among others.

Bridging the online and offline worlds, the mobile app allows the consumer to register, browse, enquire, order, and purchase any item, across varying sectors. Be it a mobile phone, a home appliance such as television or a washing machine, scooter, car, or even a tractor — 1Bridge is a one-stop service to avail all products.

The other unique feature offered by this enterprise is the door-to-door delivery service. Madan added,

A rural man will hesitate to visit a showroom. Villagers who have money to buy a motorcycle are embarrassed and intimidated to enter showrooms in cities; they are shooed away.

Hence, the company has recruited and trained over 200 local mobile and tech-savvy individuals, called 1Bridge Advisors, across 1,000 villages in seven districts. The only criteria for these budding entrepreneurs is that they should be 12th-grade graduates. The associates are hired to do the following — showing potential consumers advertisements of products sold by over 75 brands, registering consumers, generating enquiries and generating sales — all on a smartphone app.

Further, over 250 local youth, known as 1Bridge Delivery Associates, are hired and trained separately for the sheer purpose of distributing the products to the consumers.

Mapping the rural consumer base

In a first, with the aim to create unforgettable experiences for consumers, 1Bridge has devised a virtual reality mall. Consumers are invited to interact virtually with the products/services, and in turn, their activity is mapped by the company. This enables them to understand the rural consumer market and map the data points to know which product/service was viewed for a maximum period. Madan explained,

You can use analytics to understand which features of a tractor, for example, interests farmers in a VR app. In turn, it becomes a source of useful data and insights for a manufacturer.

Through RubanomiCx Express, a yatra, to be organised by 1Bridge — for a journey into the villages — Madan hopes to understand the aspirations of the next billion consumers in partnership with TiE Bangalore and YourStory.

In the near future, the company plans to increase its consumer base from the current 150,000 registered consumers to 20 million by 2019, creating 20,000 entrepreneurs along the way, spread across 200 districts and 100,000 villages of India.

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