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Sahaj e-Village Ltd plans to bring e-commerce deliveries to rural areas

Update On :18 April 2016

Sahaj e-Village Ltd plans to bring e-commerce deliveries to rural areas

Country's e-commerce boom has heightened the aspirations of millions of urban youth, but it is nowhere close to that crescendo among rural populace.

Srei group-promoted Sahaj e-Village Ltd plans to bridge that gap by bringing e-commerce deliveries to rural homes. It plans to do that by making use of its existing and growing network of IT connected rural service centres across states which were set up to provide e-governance services.

Few pilot projects are currently underway to examine the viability of the business model and test logistics issues.

The e-commerce companies are offering products primarily in the urban areas, and to some extent in the semi-urban areas. So, our rural service centres would well serve the e-commerce players. For them, delivering a product to a specific address (in urban or semi-urban areas) with a pincode would be much easier than to a rural address. There are logistics issues and we are trying to see how we can address them," said Hemant Kanoria, chairman and MD, Srei Infrastructure Finance Ltd.

Sahaj e-Village has already undertaken some pilot projects for tying up with e-commerce players which Hemant said would help sort out the glitches.

Once we are able to fine tune the logistics issues, it would have a very big potential," he said.

Sahaj e-Village was set up about eight years ago as a part of government initiative to set up village level IT enabled service centres for people to access e-governance services.

But e-governance services, which were supposed to take off in a big way, didn't quite happen except in some places while B2C services and e-training didn't quiet help Sahaj with a sustainable business model.

Srei even appointed consultancy major McKinsey to evaluate its operations in 2013.

The network is now trying to cash in on the consumption boom in the rural areas tying up with companies like Reckitt Benckiser to provide high in-demand products, over 70 of them including brands like Dettol, Harpic, Mortein or Lizol right up to the villages.

Similar talks are now taking place with ITC.

Tying up with e-commerce players would be the next big logical business evolution for Srei. But for that, Sahaj needs to expand its reach, which is already underway.

By the end of February 2016, Sahaj had set up 39,087 centres across 25 states as compared to 26,627 centres in 6 states a year ago. Plans are on to set up another 70,000 centres by March 2018, taking the total count to 110,000 touch points across the country.

Firstly, these centres are in the rural areas, plus they are IT enabled, connected through broadband or VSat," Hemant said. What's more, the network also has a payment mechanism with its own currency called the S-Cash, sort of bitcoin, which has been working very well for the past several years.

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