TARAhaat and ICT

India’s economy has grown at an impressive rate in the year 2007-08, according to recently published reports. Although this growth is much higher than most analysts had estimated, a large segment of the country’s population - as high as 400 million people - is either illiterate or forced to live below the poverty line and is not in a position to derive the benefits of the booming economy. The youth, which might be literate and educated, is not in a position to participate in the growing economy due to lack of adequate skills.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) serves as an excellent platform for sustainable development action. Recognising this, the Development Alternatives Group (DA) launched TARAhaat Information and Marketing Services Limited in 2001. If the benefits are to reach the most deprived, residing in the remotest parts of this country, sustainable development technologies need to be deployed on a very large scale. TARAhaat’s mission as a social enterprise is to create and deploy an enterprise model for the creation of sustainable enterprises on a large scale.

TARAhaat’s innovation lies in its model, as well as the products and services it offers. TARAhaat operates through a network of 300 franchised community and business centres - TARA kendras, where the bulk of the revenues reside with the franchisee. The franchisees are typically young entrepreneurs who manage their telecentres with active support from TARAhaat’s field offices. Each TARA kendra, in turn, provides direct employment to three to six youth.
The essential elements of TARAhaat’s business model are:

•  A decentralised network of commercially-run franchised telecentres
•  Strong public-private partnerships forged with the government, businesses and civil societies
•  A rich menu of services and products to create robust revenue streams
• Solid support systems in the form of training and capacity building, technical, marketing and management guidance
•  An approach to product and service development which is market driven and focused on identifying areas of value

The portfolio of products and services delivers both social and commercial goods that include:

•  A computer-based literacy programme, TARA Akshar, to teach individuals to read and write in 30 days
• Enterprise Development and Support Services (EDSS) to equip individuals to start and manage their own businesses
•  A range of educational and vocational courses to meet the demands of the present-day job market
•  Expert advisory services for farmers and entrepreneurs
•  E-governance services that provide rural access to  government machinery 
•  Relevant, local information through the internet portal www.tarahaat.com
•  An email service in 11 local languages

TARAhaat is now in an aggressive expansion mode and its network has grown over 100.0% over the last twelve months. The TARA kendra Network is in nearly 300 locations spread across eight Indian states. Its partnerships with organisations such as Microsoft, ICICI, Philips, the Shell Foundation, USHA International, ISRO, NISG, UNDP, Samsung, OWSA and a large number of Civil Society Organisations provide a strong vehicle for the development of additional products and services.

In India, as in many other countries, the key strategy to achieving sustainable development must be through the creation of jobs that produce, at a minimum, the goods and services required to fulfil everyone’s basic needs. By providing the people with some degree of financial security through creating small, local, eco-efficient businesses, and sustainable enterprises, we can empower them within their communities and make development a far more inclusive process.

The TARAhaat enterprise model has demonstrated a unique and successful approach to harnessing ICT as a tool to deliver sustainable development with the creation of hundreds of livelihoods.


Ashok Khosla



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