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Meeting rural demand with urban supply, 1Bridge is creating happy customers across villages

Amoolya Rajappa
15th Jan 2018
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The social enterprise works on a unique business model that brings products and services to the doorstep of ‘Ruban’ consumers.

Seventy-year-old Rammayya from Keelara village in Mandya district had a unique, amusing story to share with a group of aspiring entrepreneurs who visited him to understand the changing trends in rural markets.

A few days ago Ramayya had stopped his motorcycle in front of the cops, just to flaunt his newly acquired ‘gaadi licence’.

Having had a bitter experience of being fined Rs 400 for not having a vehicle licence earlier, Ramayya feared commuting to Mandya on his moped.

However, when he realised he could buy insurance in his own village without having to produce his moped for verification, he had no second thoughts.

I now want to extend to a licence that has a three-year renewal system instead of a yearly one, he says gleefully.

Beaming with pride, he also tells Madan Padaki, serial entrepreneur and founder of 1Bridge, “I now need insurance for myself as well.”

Founded in 2016, 1Bridge ensures last mile service delivery by connecting rural consumers to ruban (rural urban) retailers through an assisted commerce platform.

Ruban interventions the way forward

Founded in 2016, 1Bridge ensures last mile service delivery by connecting rural consumers to ruban (rural urban) retailers through an assisted commerce platform. In over a year, this startup has scaled up to extend its services in more than 1,000 villages across seven districts in Karnataka.

1Bridge’s services offers rural consumers a range of products from motorbikes to tractors, from smartphones to television sets, and insurance to loans.

Operating on a pull model, 1Bridge first allows its grassroots associates to record the demands of rural customers. This is then followed by enquiries, generating quotes, sales etc, all recorded, monitored and processed through its mobile app. The process culminates with 1Bridge delivering the choicest of products to the doorstep of rural customers.

Abhishek, who runs a tea stall near the village bus stop is a well- known youngster across Keelara and other surrounding villages, thanks to 1Bridge’s initiative of identifying and working with a solid network of local entrepreneurs.

Rubanomics, a game-changer concept

The 24-year-old quit his BPO job in Mysore a year ago and joined the 1Bridge team as an associate from the Keelara Gram Panchayat.

I earned 15,000 there, most of which I spent on food and housing. I could not save anything in the city. Back in the village, I save more than 10,000 working as a 1Bridge associate, says Abhishek who is also living with his family in the village.

Ask him what the best-selling product among villagers of Keelara is, he says, “There is no one thing that sells most. From insurance to bikes to mobiles, people buy everything.”

For founder Madan Padaki, the biggest joy lies in identifying and empowering “more such Abhisheks across many villages”.

Culturally speaking, it’s important for entrepreneurs to build organisations that listen to rural consumers. Instead of a few leaders deciding for customers, we should enable rural communities to decide for themselves, says Madan who reiterates on the role of rubanomics in bridging aspirations, and creating opportunities in the rural urban space.

In an ambitious plan, 1Bridge is aiming to reach out to 10,000 villages in the next 12 months. However, more than the numbers, we are focused about the quality of experience we provide,” clarifies Madan.

RubanomiCx Express, a unique bus journey across rural Karnataka

In a recently concluded two-day trip, 1Bridge took a group of people belonging to various startup ecosystems on a rural bus journey touring villages across Tumkur and Mandya districts in Karnataka.

When questioned how he envisaged such a tour, Madan answers,

Each time I come back from a village trip, I come back with new insights and perspectives. Also, through my interactions with various startups, corporates I have realised that very few possess more than a skin-deep understanding of the needs of rural consumers.

"Hence, a trip that enabled aspiring entrepreneurs to gain insights that would help them design better products for customers in rural markets seemed apt.”

Participating in the two-day journey were people belonging to various startup ecosystems from education, healthcare, financial services, among others.

A team of delegates headed by JA Chowdary, Special Chief Secretary to Chief Minister, Government of Andhra Pradesh also utilised the opportunity to understand the changing aspirations of the new billion consumers.

"It’s enlightening to know that 1Bridge’s initiatives for the rural masses are carried out in a structured, actively engaging manner.

Apart from providing financial sustainability to local entrepreneurs who otherwise migrate to cities, they are also enriching the rural ecosystem by creating happy customers, says JA Chowdary, who is also the IT Advisor to the Government of Andhra Pradesh.

“Rural populations usually lack access to a curated information pool and tapping into this need is the key for any community driven efforts like this one,” he adds.

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