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Company Feature
Published on: April 7, 2022, 3:10 p.m.
How TCS Bridges the rural-urban divide
  • BridgeIT has helped the rural youth to become digital entrepreneurs

By Business India Editorial

Since 2014, TCS’ BridgeIT programme has been addressing the social inequalities by empowering marginalised youth to become rural entrepreneurs and civic leaders in their villages. Partnering with local NGOs, TCS has been providing them skills, mentoring, technology, tools and resources, to become digital last-mile-connectors, delivering essential services targeted towards solving the most critical challenges in education, adult literacy, unemployment, social discrimination. This facilitates a ‘bridging’ of access and opportunities between youth in rural, underserved areas and those in urban areas.

TCS collaborates with trusted NGOs to implement this programme. The partners are Humana People to People India (HPPI), National Confederation of Dalit & Adivasi Organisations (NACDAOR) and Development Focus. BridgeIT forms ‘livelihood committees’, which include members from the panchayat, the local village governing body, who help select the participants of the programme. 

TCS provides the initial financial investments, infrastructure, mentoring and peer networking, designed to ensure that entrepreneurs can kick-start their journey. The programme was first implemented in 2014 in six of the most underserved villages in Jhansi district. It expanded each year with new cohorts of entrepreneurs, ultimately growing to 10 states.

The programme is now being implemented with the help of three partner organisations. Till date, BridgeIT has been implemented in 10 states and 30 districts. It has enabled 466 entrepreneurs and benefitted over 415,000 people.

In its journey, TCS has come across challenges such as changing the mindset of the rural youth, which is towards taking up a job; convincing the youth to take up risks; encouraging the young women, who are discouraged by their families from joining the programme.

Livelihood option 

India has an unemployment rate of 5.3 per cent in rural India and ~250 million of the population of India come from disadvantaged and marginalised communities as per Census 2011. TCS’ BridgeIT program has given them a livelihood option. Earlier, the villagers had to go till the block level to get many of the basic services, which now they have started getting at their doorstep. 

Digital skills imparted to the Dalit/tribal youth are passed on to the rural communities. Access to technology allows them to emerge as successful digital entrepreneurs. 

As much as 95 per cent of the youth indicated increased income and improved standard of living, recording 3x earnings in comparison to other casual wage earners in rural India. About 60 per cent of them are able to break social and gender barriers and bring in transformational change in the communities. Also, 92 per cent of these women and men indicated higher self-esteem and respect gained at home and in the community. 

Average income of the 20 top entrepreneurs after two years with the programme has been Rs25,640, with the best performing entrepreneur touching revenue up to Rs4 lakh. The average income of the entrepreneurs who joined the programme in mid-2020 is Rs37,590 (in nine months), while the aggregate earnings of the entrepreneurs till date is Rs5.45 crore. 

The aim of the programme has now been raised to achieve higher societal outcomes against target groups and touch 1 million entrepreneurs by 2030. It is looking at enhancing its services in rural entrepreneurship in the fields of agriculture, education, healthcare, logistics, financial and legal services. From the current 30 districts, the programme plans to be replicated in over 100 aspirational and underserved districts in India. 

TCS seeks to deepen the reach in every district to reach one million entrepreneurs by 2030. The programme is provided free of cost and the company does not envisage to generate any money in the name of the program. It is sustained by the CSR funds of the company. 

The empowered youth of the BridgeIT programme would supplement academic inputs to primary and middle government school children through Computer Aided Learning (CAL) modules. It also plans to improve adult literacy through its Computer Based Functional Literacy (CBFL) module. The digital entrepreneurs now run Common Service Centres to provide 160+ IT enabled services to the villagers.

The income earned by these entrepreneurs has seen a steady increase, going as high as $5,714/month (Rs400,000/month). As much as 77.4 per cent of the entrepreneurs have moved into the band of $2/day and above, with 2.5 per cent of them earning greater than $32/day. Many BridgeIT entrepreneurs now provide employment to other disadvantaged youth in rural India. 

CAL in schools and adult literacy programme in the communities helped in giving the villagers credibility as entrepreneurs. The income when they started their journey was on an average Rs8,000-10,000 annually. After two years in the programme, this has almost doubled for many of them. The entrepreneurs are able to start earning a decent income in 7-8 months.

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