India is a country of villages. Over 60 percent of its population lives in rural areas. Rural development has a significant impact on the economic growth of the country. Communication plays a significant role in the development process. It amplifies voice, facilitates meaningful participation, and fosters social change. However, there is a divide between rural and urban communication. There is dearth of information providers and a fragmented market for information with many individual clients or client groups in rural areas. There is lack of well developed ICT infrastructure and low levels of ICT skills. "Radio Pitara", a start up, tackles this problem of communication gap among rural populace. It works as a communication service provider targeted to rural audience. Founders of this company Gaurav Dikshit and Shubhankar Bhardwaj gave up their lucrative MNC jobs to start the venture which uses basic telephone and a toll free number to reach out to its rural target audience. The duo spoke to ‘Employment News’ Anand Saurabh about their journey of entrepreneurship. Here are the excerpts of interview:
Question. How did you get the idea for the business?
Answer. This chart is the germination of our thoughts in Rural. As a matter of fact, India resides in its villages. With about 50-60 crore population residing in the erstwhile BIMARU state, there is hardly a media platform to reach this audience through traditional media. Even if we have, it is just limited to only Doordarshan and All India Radio. During our stint in advertising we realized that there is not any robust media choice available to reach this target audience.
While the communication form has evolved for urban audiences, rural reach is still a far off dream for many brands and agencies.
Mobile is the next wave of communication and the very fact that people now are connected 24x7 through their Mobile set triggered the idea.
Question. What was your mission at the outset?
Answer. To Inform and transform the rural mass. Pitaara has a vision to be seen as the expert in Rural Communication services.
Question. How many employees work in the enterprises?
Answer. Currently we have a team of 10 full time employees and few other experts who work on project to project basis. We are on a hiring spree for more quality resources. As a matter of fact, we take pride in being amongst those few organizations where we don't look at any academic qualification as prerequisite. As long as the candidate has a knack for impactful insights and ideas around communicating with rural audience, we are fine with it.
Question. What kind of services do you provide?
Answer. We develop and disseminate complete communication services targeted to rural audience. Right from generating quality content to taking it to them for our clients who include private companies as well as government bodies, are our areas of expertise. This is a free of cost service to the listener where he is just initiating a missed call (1800-12000-13 0r 1800-120-1318) from his number (No constraint on type of handset or internet connectivity) and in return gets a call back where we play the content. This service works well even on a lowest priced feature phone.
Question. How do you advertise your business?
Answer. We have done few marketing activities in rural areas that gave us some initial popularity. There on, our content is generating lot of pull and huge word of mouth publicity. We have a high rate of repeat callers as well which is the testimony of our content relevance. We are in the midst of finalizing a go to market promotion plan in association with few brands.
Question. To what do you attribute your success?
Answer. Whatever we do our audience should be at the core of it. It should enrich them and affect them in any form.
Question. What are your responsibilities as the head of firm?
Answer. This is the toughest one to answer. You have to be on your toes, always. Both of us get into anything and everything related to the platform.
Question. What are the challenges you face in your business?
Answer. Brands need to be more open to experiment. A lot of rural communication decision happens in the board room of cushy corporate offices which rarely have connect with rural psychology. For them, the media plan starts and ends with a DD and AIR.
Question. What will be your message to those who are planning for start-ups?
Answer. Whatever you do, it should create a difference in someone's life. Only those who solve a problem would survive in the long run. Also, the most important component of the success of a start-up is the team. Make your first effort in building a good team.
Question. What do you feel about the sustainability of start ups in India?
Answer. This is probably the best time to be in a startup set up. India is a country of great mind and big population. For a country of the size and stature of India, problems would always be there. Startups have the task of addressing it with the existing support mechanism.