A village startup

A village startup

The only TG that exists in India

If the years from 2015-18 have shown anything, it is that everyone wants a pie of the Indian middle class. Said to be a strength of more than 250 million, it is the darling of almost every startup in India and a place where every unicorn around the world wants to enter. Organisations change their product according to India and are willing to invest billions with hopes of returns in the long run.

The 250 million lives in the bigger cities with about a quarter concentrated in the major metros of the country. Anyone and everyone who is talented wants to move there as well. The possibility of greater opportunities, a dynamic life and better networking encourages entrepreneurs to move to the bigger cities Companies and organisations too, want to move to a Gurgaon or a Bengaluru as they would find better talent there.

The irony of working in a city

Which is a bit ironic as greater penetration of the internet is supposed to reduce the relevance of locations. Work from home or on the road should be more of the norm as shared systems develop and better networks should lead to greater collaboration as teams are able to work real-time in spite of their locations.

Why then, would one want an office in Delhi or a Mumbai? Sure they boast of better nightlife and the option of having everything from food to laundry delivered home. But as an entrepreneur, one is generally broke and willing to save on these “conveniences”.

“Smart Habitation is an integrated area of villages and a city working in harmony where the rural and urban divide is reduced to a thin line” – APJ Abdul Kalam

Don’t get me wrong. There is a lot that a metro provides that a village cannot. Simple services that we may take for granted in a city is a luxury in a village. In the village where we work, pipelines haven’t arrived and the village is dependent on Himalayan subterranean streams for their water supply. Electricity can be a problem as power lines are shut in fear of lightning. You may get very easy 4G network at a spot but nothing 100m from the said spot.

Startup in a village

But there are workarounds for all of this. And by figuring out the workaround, you help not just yourself, but an entire community around you. And once you’ve worked around, starting up is a breeze.

“We have shown that solar electrified villages can be technically and financially self-sufficient” – Bunker Roy

For one, it is much easier to concentrate on the work to be done. The only distractions would probably be the cow mooing or the woodpecker pecking. You would also be much healthier. A daily hike would be just what the doctor ordered and having a more disciplined life has been proven on multiple occasions to result in a more disciplined startup.

But one of the biggest advantages of starting up in a village is the cost benefit. Rents would be less than a quarter of what you pay in a city. Electricity bills would be similar. Food, including going out, would be a third of city expenses. Petrol would probably be the only cost that would increase. The savings would be enough to have client meetings in cities at least once a month.

“Instead of noblemen let us have noble villages of men” – Henry David Thoreau

And while most organizations would not look towards rural or smaller urban areas for very real reasons, there are some who have had successful startup stories from there – from Smartprix in Bharatpur to Kilmora in Almora.

So Blockchain and AI would definitely be the buzzwords for 2018. But there would be a quiet movement to rural and semi-urban areas that shouldn’t be ignored.


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