According to the 2011 Census, 68.84 percent of Indians (around 833.1 million people) live in 6,40,867 different villages. The size of these villages varies considerably, with 2,36,004 villages having a population of fewer than 500, while 3,976 villages have a population of over 10,000. While rural India may bring to mind clichéd images of bullock carts, farmers and roadside stalls, there’s much more to a village than these.
Have you heard of Taudhakpur? Taudhakpur is a remote village in Raebareli, which can be termed as the country’s first SmartGaon. But, what is a SmartGaon?
The brainchild of two tech-savvy professionals — Yogesh Sahu and Rajnish Bajpai, ‘SmartGaon’ is essentially a mobile application that not only connects the village internally and with the urban world, but also serves as a one-stop information centre and a marketplace for farmers. All initiatives undertaken in the village are updated, recorded, tracked and monitored on the app.
So, how does this app changed Taudhakpur?
The village has built 242 toilets, a record in Uttar Pradesh, and maybe rest of India too in just 48 hours. Blessed with CCTV cameras, public address systems, street lights, regular health check-up events, 18-20 hours of the power supply and even a Wifi zone, this village can compete with a town and win.
Let’s talk about the app and its influence on the village.
The ‘SmartGaon’ app has key features like the villagers’ directory, news and events calendar, health centre and information centre. According to the developers of the Android application, the app is aimed at reconstructing and improving villages for people to lead a vital life, as in the cities.
Pivoting their endeavour on mobile technology and Internet of Things as the future of growth and development, the app’s Gram Mart feature, which supports fair trade between farmers, thereby creating a marketplace for their products, has been a hit with the Taudhakpur ryots.
How all of it began?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was delivering a speech at San Jose SAP centre during his US trip in September 2015. “Sometimes in my country we used to hear people say that something has to be done to stop this ‘brain drain’. The land of India produces a lot of gems. This ‘brain drain’ can also become a ‘brain gain’,” the PM had said.
The speech was the trigger behind the idea of rejuvenating Taudhakpur village. This speech inspired Rajnish to do something for his country. He and his close friend Mr Sahu came up with the SmartGaon idea to improve the quality of life of villagers.
Working on a tech-savvy project in rural India is quite challenging. And the toughest part was to train the villager on using the app. However, mobile Internet users have been growing at 26 per cent per annum in villages. Sahu and Bajpai decided to dive into this aspect of mobile internet penetration to give wings to their project.
Yogesh and Rajnish used their savings to build up the app and now expecting funds from the government. Headquarters are in Mumbai. The team has refused to share revenue details and projected revenue, they confirmed that Gram Mart works on a B2C model, where the money comes from the sales made on the online platform.
With three years of hard work by the villagers and support from the gram pradhan, district magistrate and CDO (Rae Bareli) to bring upon the digital revolution, Taudhakpur emerged as an example of what is possible. After successfully turning around Taudhakpur in UP, Sahu and Bajpai have now laid the bricks of development in six more villages in Chattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.