Published: 02nd June 2021
How students of NTU, Singapore, developed a kiosk-cum-EV that offers so many internet-related services in villages
They call themselves The Kisan Union and they work solely for farmers and villagers via their kiosk. They are currently functional in two villages and hope to spread their wings further very soon
In Anumpalli, a village in Andhra Pradesh, a kiosk mounted on an electric tricycle circulates in the village, offering a whole range of services. If a farmer wishes to check out a few schemes among the innumerable, and often indiscernible, schemes out there, they needn't worry. They simply need to hand over Rs 10 to the person at the pedal of the kiosk and together, they can fill out a form that will help filter down what exactly the farmer is eligible for. This it does with the help of a partnership forged with Haqdarshak, a platform that has made getting access to government welfare schemes easier. If they want to access a few banking services like sending money or withdrawing up to Rs 2,000, that's no problem either. The kiosk's collaboration with ApnaPay, a FinTech start-up, makes that happen. To bring access to e-commerce products, they brought on board LinQ Store, a portal that makes shopping on e-commerce websites easier. Even if a villager hopes to buy an affordable pair of spectacles, Lensfit makes it happen. By now you must have understood that the kiosk — with the plethora of services it offers — is a boon to the village. Those who have blessed the village with this Smart Solar Kiosk call themselves The Kisan Union and they have been functioning since December 2018.
Ho Jing En, Kannan V, Dinesh M and Jethendra Varma are the other team members
From his previous experience in the corporate world, particularly with Greaves Cotton (the farming equipment manufacturing company), Nikhil Mukkawar understood that there is a huge chasm that exists between farmers and the information they should be aware of. This was the problem statement that the 30-year-old spent most of his time on while pursuing his Master's in Smart Product Design at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore in 2018. A possible solution started to take shape when Nikhil observed the pedal tricycles that used to collect garbage in the Lion City. "My final-year project was on EVs, more specifically on using them to deliver information to bridge the gap," informs Nikhil. He and his teammates went on to win the Young Social Entrepreneur competition for their pedal-cum-motor EV and with the prize money, the Adilabad-born travelled to Anumpalli with co-founder Bollem Rajkumar to set up the first kiosk.
At the kiosk
"We figured out which areas in the village had the strongest network and stuck to those areas. At Anumpalli, the kiosk functions from 2 to 6 pm because from morning to noon, farmers are usually busy in the fields," explains the youngster. They hired a graduate to manage the kiosk, who received training on all the services they offer, including making résumés and applying for jobs online. One such kiosk caters to about five to six surrounding villages. A second kiosk has come up in Shadnagar and another is being fabricated in Chennai and is for those who are disabled, as requested by the Digital Empowerment Foundation.
They are incubated at NTU and have received support from organisations like Singapore International Foundation, CoLab4Good, The Seed Initiative and more
"Additionally, we have an intranet device installed in the kiosk —it is a hard disk with 60 to 70 GB of information that can be accessed by connecting to the WiFi. This data consists of videos and information related to all things agriculture in over 16 languages. We were able to offer this thanks to a partnership with Wikipedia," shares Nikhil. How wonderful would it be to see this kiosk in every village of India.
For more on them you can reach out to Nikhil at firstname.lastname@example.org