How Rajasthan is creating long-term income-generating opportunities for rural women

As part of the Rajiv Gandhi Innovation Awards, iStart Rajasthan conducted a virtual event on August 22, 2023, to highlight how the state is accelerating women-led business development.

How Rajasthan is creating long-term income-generating opportunities for rural women

Tuesday August 29, 2023,

4 min Read

The Rajiv Gandhi Innovation Awards, an initiative by the government of Rajasthan, encourage entrepreneurship and the development of local ideas by fostering innovation, creating jobs, and facilitating investment. 

The award programme has launched a series of events, physical and virtual, to enable successful startups, innovators, and entrepreneurs to exchange learning experiences and bring technical expertise, through a technology-led model under rural women empowerment.  

As part of the awards initiative, iStart Rajasthan conducted a virtual event on August 22, 2023, to highlight how the state is accelerating women-led business development. The event, a part of the iStart Rajiv Gandhi Innovation Award Impact Series, in association with Frontier Markets, is a step towards advancing women-led development for rural India, mainly rural Rajasthan.

Launched by DoIT officials, along with RK Sharma, Technical Director Department of IT & Communication, Government of Rajasthan, and Tapan Kumar, SA Joint Director, Department of IT & Communication, Government of Rajasthan, the event hosted a panel discussion on ‘Technology-led models for rural women-led development in rural India’.

Moderated by Charu Malhotra, MD and Co-founder, Primus Partners, the panel featured Vivek Prakash, VP and Head, CSR, Jubilant; Sudhir Aggarwal, Director, Wadhwani Foundation; Shashwat Kulshreshta, State Coordinator, Cairn Oil and Gas Vedanta Limited; Dr Prachee Gaur, Founder and CEO, Remarkable Education, and Ajaita Shah, Founder and CEO, Frontier Markets.

Tech-led models to boost women entrepreneurship

The panel shed light on the impact of numerous state government schemes like the Indira Gandhi Smartphone Yojana, under which the government promised to provide smartphones (with sim cards and data connectivity) to 40 lakh women beneficiaries of the state through direct benefit transfer (DBT). 

Sharma shared insights on how the Indira Gandhi Smartphone Yojana has not only helped women explore opportunities, focus on innovation, and build their dreams through the internet but has also empowered underserved women in rural Rajasthan.

He highlighted how the government is transforming rural areas of the state with the Indira Gandhi Smartphone Yojana. He said the larger goal of this scheme is making information accessible to women, and the government is not only improving their digital literacy but also empowering them with requisite information about government schemes and support.

Kumar, on the other hand, talked about the growing startup ecosystem in Rajasthan and how startups like Frontier Markets are contributing to the overall growth of the state. He shed light on how startups in Rajasthan are working collaboratively with the state government to improve the ecosystem while fuelling women empowerment.

The Rajasthan government’s initiative to provide women with phones, and educate and empower them to use the devices for business development and to create long-term income-generating opportunities is game-changing, Shah said during the panel discussion.

She Leads Bharat: A long-term income-generating opportunity

Frontier Markets launched the She Leads Bharat Initiative, a coalition of partners from civil society, government, market-based service providers, and impact investors on a common platform, to create long-term income opportunities for rural women and their communities. 

Shah said this will help enhance women-led development in rural India and is in line with the state government’s goal of empowering women in Rajasthan.

She Leads Bharat aims to create a ‘Saral-Jeevan’ (an easy life) among rural households through a digital-economic-gender-focused social marketplace that achieves multiple outcomes to support the progression of India’s socio-economic index. The programme has established a network of more than 35,000 Sahelis and the sale of 50 million products, impacting one million households in 5,000 villages in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. 

Shah also spoke about the Meri Saheli App, a part of the She Leads Bharat programme, which is designed in a local language for enhanced accessibility.

The app enables users to map, digitise, and identify the needs of last-mile rural women and communities. It can provide rural communities with access to cost-conscious, high-quality, climate-friendly, gender-sensitive, and essential products at their doorstep.

Along with creating a channel for government and other agencies to offer schemes that communities need (such as agriculture, livelihood, education and healthcare), the app can also serve as a training platform to help develop skills that can enable women and communities to start businesses. 

Talking about future aspirations, Shah said Frontier Markets aims to influence 1 million women entrepreneurs and 100 million households by 2030 to support goals such as economic opportunity for women; rural market access; and the She Leads Bharat ecosystem.