Working in partnership with India’s Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and with generous support from the Vodafone Foundation in India, we have developed a unique mobile-based management information system (MIS) to support a successful women-led agricultural cooperative. Operating largely in India’s Gujarat state, SEWA’s Rural Distribution Network (RUDI) procures farm produce from marginal farmers at market prices, then processes and packages the stock before selling it at affordable prices through a group of saleswomen known as “Rudibens”.
RUDI’s reach and scale has increased dramatically in recent years, exposing the challenges of paper-based inventory management and sales reporting. We developed a simple, user-friendly application which enables the Rudibens to capture sales and place orders for additional stock via SMS using their simple feature phones. Prior to this, the women would often spend up to seven hours a day travelling to order new stock – often arriving to find the products unavailable.
Data is captured on a central database providing information for RUDI’s managerial, financial and audit requirements. The women are also able to generate simple reports on their handsets, which provides essential information for running their business. The application is being rolled out to Rudibens through various marketing and training activities, which also offer additional support with capacity building and long-term enterprise development.
Since the application was first launched in December 2012 the Rudibens have reported significant increases in their monthly sales – as much as threefold in some instances.
‘In the beginning, the husbands may have resisted the idea of the wife working but then they see cattle in the house and they are convinced. They see that the benefit is for the family.’
‐ Reema Nanavaty, CEO, SEWA
At the heart of the Vodafone Foundation in India is the belief that their mobile communications technologies can address some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges and they utilise their innovative mobile technology to improve people’s lives.
SEWA is an organisation of mostly rural, self-employed women workers, many of whom operate in the information economy and traditionally lack many social protections often found in the formal sector. These are women who earn a living through their own labour or small businesses, and SEWA operates to organise these women, provide training and resources and expand economic opportunities across the network.
RUDI‘s main organisational aim is to “generate quality products produced by rural producers that reach rural markets under a common brand”. Currently, the RUDI network has over 358,000 members from 14 states in Gujarat. Over time, RUDI hope to integrate over 650,000 SEWA members into the network, which will be easier to do if each Rudiben can maximise her business operations and efficiency.
Focusing on affordable and appropriate solutions, ekgaon designs and develops technologies and information systems to meet the needs of developing communities. ekgaon is a strong believer in the ideals of community and collaboration. They seek to use and develop free and open source software conforming to open standards where possible.