During the third phase of the lockdown, we had the good fortune of speaking with the Co-founder of Haqdarshak, Aniket Doegar, who is currently working- from- home, i.e, Shimla. An alumni of Shri Ram College of Commerce, Aniket was selected as a Teach for India fellow in the 2010-2012 cohort. Thereafter he worked in multiple non-profit and for-profit organisations. Having found a huge gap in the information available to those for whom the schemes and services were made in the first place by the government, Aniket used technology and community workers to resolve this issue. A ‘Forbes Asia 30-under 30-achiever, he gives credit to his team entirely for the recognition. Social innovation receives very little attention, therefore figuring in the list was beneficial for social innovations like this; thus creating a mark for more such innovations in the start-up ecosystem to come up. The use of technology to achieve last mile connectivity, along with a thorough ground network of field workers to ensure access to government schemes and services to those who cannot access them is the base of the Haqdarshak model.
An assessment of Haqdarshak’s impact on the community
There are three verticals: tech, content and research, and field operations. There are 180 full-time employees, and we have about 2000 ground agents who are primarily women from rural communities, who work as entrepreneurs. Haqdarshak is spread across 20 states now; along with rural India, the focus is primarily on 10 cities, including Delhi NCR, Bombay, Pune, Bangalore, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Chennai. So far we have reached out to 300,000 families, who now have access to government schemes.
Even during the CoVID pandemic, in the last one-month, the team has been able to fast track our tech product roadmap. There was a mobile app released, which is a free app for citizens to discover, which CoVID specific schemes they can apply for. Plus, there are also helplines being run in about 11 languages, which alone gives support to citizens for these applications. In the typical entrepreneurship model , Haqdarshaks (the field workers) are able to earn an average of Rs.2000-2500 per month.
Haqdarshak works on a decentralized model, where all the team members in different parts of the countries are mobilizing and doing research. The kind of work done, qualifies as civic tech, usually such kind of work that doesn’t receive much recognition that it deserves, in terms of mainstream technology.
In the North-East of India, Haqdarshak has presence in Assam, though all the required data and content for all the North-Eastern states are there with the organiation. Currently ground operations have not begun, but there is dedicated a helpline for support. Haqdarshak is now actually looking to collaborate with few local state governments, as well as local partners, in past couple of months, but those conversations have stopped now. However prime focus is on the North-East with Assam as the base.
What does a Social Entrepreneur need in current scenarios?
Experience on the field is always valuable. Without any exposure to field activities, running a social enterprise will always prove to be a challenge.
The research team engages in primary, field research. They don’t do any kind of academic research, and the strategy is to get on the ground, and get the women agents on the tech platform, to address grievances of people, who don’t have access to schemes. The motive is to be more of an action-based researcher rather, than academic researcher.
Compared to 5 years back, when Haqdarshak was started, there are many more opportunities now. There are so many incubators these days, and one sees a lot of social enterprises, which are for-profit registered, but having the same kind of impact that non-profits have shown. For those with innovative ideas, in the tech space, mobility space, also access to financial services, opportunities are immense.
Social entrepreneurship has its own set of challenges. Aniket says, “I have failed more than I have succeeded. One has to be focused on the mission, it is important to have your ears to the ground because, a lot of innovation that comes out of social entrepreneurship, aren’t based on previous examples. For instance, the concept of Haqdarshak itself is new, and we don’t have past examples from the field to base our model on.”
This Story will re-appear in Budding Beats e-magazine May 2020 India Issue.