Nokia poised to help farmers to expand its rural base

Nokia is about to launch a set of “Life Tools” to be embedded in its mobile phones in an effort to expand its base into rural India. These Life Tools cater to the needs of the rural community with information on three different sectors namely Agriculture, Education, Entertainment. On agriculture, the Life Tool is likely to offer updated information on weather and market prices for the farmers produce on the mobile phone in the farmers native language.

As the old proverb goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Nokia’s datasheet on Life Tools provides an easy-to-understand picture. Evidently, this tool is developed not just to penetrate into rural India, but rather to the “rural world”.

If my everyday observation is any testimony, Nokia seems to have a wide user base at the lower economic sections of India, and this tool can be an excellent vehicle for informational empowerment of the rural Indian community. However, given that the rural buy is likely not going to buy these phones off a Nokia Priority Showroom, how Nokia is going to market this tool so that the buyer buys a low cost Nokia phone for its Life Tools rather than its ruggedness, ease of use or longer life would be an interesting point to observe. This may also be the crucial factor that may determine the tool’s success.

Step towards cleaner cooking in rural areas

Envirofit International has introduced a range of “clean-burning and biomass-based cooking stoves” in India, starting with the rural homes in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Envirofit’s announcement on its website says:

Designed by an international team of globally recognized scientists and engineers, the cookstoves reduce toxic emissions by as much as 80%, while using 50% less fuel and reducing cooking cycle time by 40%. The cookstoves have been developed as a result of a partnership between Envirofit and Shell Foundation (UK) initially launched in 2007 to engineer and deliver clean burning biomass stoves that are affordable and attractive to people who are impacted by Indoor Air Pollution (IAP). 

Stove in action

Stove in action

Details from Business Standard article:

Grameen Kuta, a leading microfinance institution, is financing these stoves. NGOs like Myrada, through its self-help groups, The Tamil Nadu Foundation and the Cauvery Women’s Federation distribute the product.

These are being sold in over 700 villages in Karnataka and 300 villages in Tamil Nadu through a multi-tier distribution strategy. Five different models have been introduced, priced between Rs 500 and Rs 2,000.

We see this as an excellent example of NGOs coming together (Envirofit and Shell Foundation) and working with academia (Colorado State University and other well recognized institutions) to solve an issue that largely affects the rural populace of third world countries. The product born as a result of this confluence is of high standards and conforms to all relevant norms – it is available over a fairly broad, yet affordable price range.
While you are at it, you could also read about Envirofit’s 2-Stroke Retrofit effort.

Source: Business Standard

Unexpected spin-offs from earning a living

[Source Article]

It is strange, though always welcome, that many a times social good happens unexpectedly – with no prior intention. One such example is that of the rural Muslim women of Murshidabad. In course of their tryst to earn a living they have opened up avenues for spreading messages of social relevance and keep alive a traditional religious art form. All this in face of social restrictions that come with their gender.

Rasina and her all-woman troupe render ‘Jaari Gaan’ – elegiac poems that narrate Islamic religious stories of tragedy and martyrdom at religious gatherings, and get paid for it. To put it in context, this was a traditional male bastion.

Image Courtesy: Indiatogether

[Article Excerpt]

Inspired by Rasina and her group, many more ‘Jaari Gaan’ troupes have emerged in the state, including those that comprise educated women from the upper-middle class. More than 10 to 15 women troupes from areas such as Lalbagh, Kandi, Hatpara and Jiagunj are now regulars at such ‘Jaari Gaan’ ‘majlis’ across Murshidabad and even elsewhere.

Interestingly, such is the social acceptance of these women that even government health agencies have begun to reach out to the Muslim communities through them. The female troupes deliver messages on social issues – such as maternal and child health, pulse polio campaign, HIV/AIDS and compulsory primary education – alongside their elegies of right over wrong.

In their effort to lead a better life, these women have given us a grasroots example of breaking the glass ceiling.