Product description

Dharma Life is a social enterprise with an aim to create sustainable rural livelihoods that will help bridge the urban-rural divide. We aim to achieve this by creating and supporting rural entrepreneurs, who provide socially impactful and cause-focused products to consumers at the base of the pyramid at an affordable cost.

Where the product/service is being used

To date the model has created and supported more than 2,000 entrepreneurs and touched more than 1.3 million lives in more than 2000 villages in India spread across the states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka and Rajasthan.

The model is currently being implemented in India and plans are there to expand to Africa in the near future.

The Problems it attempts to solve or address

Problem 1: Two-thirds of India’s working population (census 2001) is dependent on agriculture as a source of income and according to the Rural Agricultural Commission this group is unemployed for about 6 months each year. This accounts for 100-120 million households that lack a regular source of income.

Problem 2: In rural India similar to the global situation people are dying from preventable causes such as unimproved water and sanitation (337,476*), household air pollution from solid fuels (3,546,399*) and child and maternal under nutrition (1,438,305*) among others. (* number of deaths globally in 2010 as per Lancet Study 2012). Additionally, growth in rural income over the years has accelerated consumption and demand for modern products (NSSO 2012), however, access to some of these products remains limited.

Design Approach

Since the conceptualization of the business there has been considerable development in this sector, with several organization developing similar or related value chains to access the BOP market. The differentiator for Dharma Life is embedded in its founding vision of prioritizing livelihood creation over plain vanilla distribution and combining it with social impact on the product side. The key differentiating aspects are the following:

  • Developing & Empowering entrepreneurs: Dharma Life’s model aims to assist underprivileged youth to help them break out of the poverty cycle. The idea is to create a sustainable model, which apart from giving financial sustainability to the entrepreneur creates a level of empowerment and sparks the entrepreneurial spirit of the individual.
  • Unique combination of livelihood creation and addressing other basic needs at the BOP: In addition to creating livelihoods the Dharma Life model enables the entrepreneur to educate consumers on health issues such as indoor air pollution from cooking smoke or kerosene lanterns, or anemia due to malnutrition. Creating a local entrepreneur who is recognised by the community arguably creates a bigger impact than an outside intervention, and also creates a dual social impact.
  • Combination of best in class corporate practices with social impact: Dharma Life has been set-up as a social enterprise in order to be able to create a performance driven culture, which looks both at sustainability and social impact. The team has therefore invested significant capital in people and systems design creating a market for social impact products: Dharma Life with its network of direct selling entrepreneurs creates a market for socially impactful products which otherwise cannot be sold via normal channels effectively. This is especially applicable for products such as clean cookstoves.

Technology Used

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Given that Dharma Life is expanding and reaching out to more consumers and prospective entrepreneurs, we are ever-looking for ICT improvement and upgrading of our current system. For example the mobile application developed has enabled Dharma Life in 4 aspects:

1. Better tracking and reporting of the recruitment of the entrepreneurs,

2. Sales done by entrepreneurs is being captured and tracked in real time,

3. An analysis of prospective products to be introduced in these markets, and consumer feedback on the products more accurately and efficiently,

4. Purchase orders from the field are much faster leading to better response time in providing the products to the entrepreneurs as per the consumers demand.

 Business Model

Dharma Life collaborates extensively with different partners:

1)      Government:

  1. Partnership with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to work on adoption barriers for clean cook stoves.

2)      Civil Society:

  1. Pratham: Dharma Life since its inception has been working with Pratham (India’s largest NGO fighting illiteracy amongst children) around recruitment, training and mentorship of entrepreneurs.

3)      Companies: Dharma Life works with companies who can provide suitable social impact products to base of the pyramid consumers

  1. Shell Foundation: Strategic partnership including both capacity building and funding support
  2. Coca-Cola: Partnership with Coca-Cola to raise awareness about anaemia and promote Coca Cola’s micronutrient fortified drink

Impact

Impact created:

More than one million lives improved

10,300+ tonnes of CO2 saved

35,500+ people given access to clean drinking water

38,000+ solar lights

2,150+   Improved cook stoves

6,450+   Water purifiers

2,450,000+ sachets of iron-fortified drink Vitingo served

2000+ Village Level Entrepreneurs created and provided constant support (as of May 2014)

Road Ahead

  • Scale up the model in India to a full sustainable model
  • Expand to markets abroad like Africa and test the model in different cultural and geographic regions

Lessons Learned

1. Assessment of finding the right entrepreneur who will be a part of our process and be able to create an impact within his/her community while at the same time grow as an entrepreneur.

2. Assessment of the right product mix to serve the market needs across different geographies for different target consumers.

3. Consumer market in the rural markets of India is very complex. Who makes the purchase decision is different from who influences the purchase decision and different again from the person who is going to use the product.

Contact details

Gaurav Mehta (Founder & CEO)
Dharma Life (an initiative of Gajam India Private Limited)
Address: 2nd Floor, R-9A, Nehru Enclave, New Delhi-110019, India
Website: www.dharmalife.in
Email: admin@dharmalife.in
Phone: 011 – 41018858