Although India has the world’s second-largest online population, only 30 percent of India’s online users are women, considerably less than other developing countries such as China and Indonesia, which have greater than 40% female internet users. In rural India, the proportion of female internet users drops to 12 percent. 1 By limiting their use of technology, women are not able to access the benefits it brings. Using a mobile phone to seek advice for farming or trade ideas for building a “microbusiness” can help women secure a better economic life.
Only 1 in 10 rural internet users were women!
The Internetsaathi program
Google and Tata Trusts recognized this gap and the possible impact of empowering rural women in the growth of India as a country. The solution started as the “Internetsaathi” digital literacy program for rural India that scaled to over 17 states. After the success of the Internetsaathi program, they set up a non-profit called Foundation for Rural Entrepreneurship Development (FREND) to support these women in their transition to this next phase of their entrepreneurial lives (from literacy to livelihood).
Just as FREND was transitioning from the “literacy” phase to the “livelihood” phase, Google and FREND reached out to Triveous and shared their inspiring vision of a new India where women would be the catalyst for a new kind of economic and social movement in India. In other words, this would not just benefit the rural economy but would power social transformation across India.
“Saathi” translates to “Friend” in Hindi
User Research in Rural India
It is one thing to think about these inspiring women from the comfort of our office and another thing altogether to see them do their work in the field. We needed to understand who these “Saathi”s were, what inspired them and how they overcame the multitude of social, economic and operational challenges to be where they are today. We spent months visiting multiple villages across India to get to know them and their support system better.
We analysed our primary and secondary research data to define key “saathi” personas, their needs and opportunities in the market. Over the next few months, we worked with FREND to define a “saathi” product roadmap that specifically solved all the pain points found in our research.
Survey Superpowers for every Rural Woman
A new survey platform to help women undertake complex surveys in any condition
Surveys are at the heart of the FREND platform and enabled thousands of women to earn a livelihood every day. When talking to these women, we discovered that they found it tough to fill longer surveys and felt anxious about losing precious data to storage or connectivity issues. They also didn’t feel in control of the income they generated. We designed a new, fully offline survey platform that helped these women become more efficient, worry less about connectivity or survey-related errors, and stay up-to-date about their progress and payments.
Through the collective efforts of FREND, Google, TataTrusts, Triveous and other partners, the face of women empowerment in rural India has changed completely
- As of 2021, 4 out of 10 rural internet users are now women
- An income of $1.5 million has been generated for over 80,000 rural women
- There are over 30 million beneficiaries of FREND programs in over 300,000 villages in India (50% of the villages in India)
As of 2021, 4 out of 10 rural internet users are now women