Acumen Investment Gives Fund Stake In Growing Technology Platform Transforming Rural India

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Drishtee kiosks harness technology to increase the accessibility of critical information and services including healthcare and education.

Drishtee embodies the essence of Acumen Fund’s mission with its innovative model to use the power of technology to transform the delivery of a wide range of services to infrastructure-poor rural areas throughout India.

Acumen Fund, a leading catalyst for sustainable, scalable solutions addressing poverty in South Asia and Africa, announced today that it has invested $1.6 million (~Rs.72 million) in Drishtee Dot Com, a rural Information and Communications Technology (ICT) platform operating more than 1000 kiosks in India that provide computer and English education, e-governance and digital photography services. Acumen Fund’s investment of $1 million (~Rs.45 million) gives it an equity stake in Drishtee and is being used to finance the growth of Drishtee’s kiosk base and officially launch Quiver Infoservices Limited, a Drishtee subsidiary that will focus on expanding and improving the offerings of the company’s kiosks, including health-related services for the rural poor. Acumen Fund is also providing a concurrent loan to Drishtee of $600,000 (~Rs.27 million).

“Acumen Fund is committed to identifying entrepreneurial entities that address the needs of the world’s poor by creating new systems that will efficiently deliver critical, affordable goods and services,” said Acumen Fund CEO Jacqueline Novogratz. “Drishtee embodies the essence of Acumen Fund’s mission with its innovative model to use the power of technology to transform the delivery of a wide range of services to infrastructure-poor rural areas throughout India.”

Drishtee is using the financing from Acumen Fund to scale from just over 700 kiosks in six states to over 30,000 kiosks in 23 states, primarily in rural villages, as well as add four new services for the poor. As Drishtee scales in both kiosks and services, it will move towards sustainability, first locally and then at an organizational level. Drishtee’s investment in infrastructure (both physical and virtual) is enabling it to expand its focus to areas that impact core livelihood and living standards issues such as access to healthcare services. This “bundling” and distribution of services will be driven by Quiver, the primary focus of Acumen Fund’s investment into Drishtee.

More than any other factor, lack of quality healthcare has the distinction of making the maximum number of rural villagers slip below the poverty line. A recent Disha survey found that close to 12 percent of rural income is spent on healthcare and nearly 60 percent of this population takes loans at annual interest rates of 60-120 percent in order to pay for prolonged treatment or hospitalization. Acumen Fund’s investment is enabling Drishtee to develop health services including access to quality medicine and health information.

“Acumen Fund’s investment is crucial to our efforts to meet the challenges involved in bringing quality value-driven services, including improved health care, to rural communities across India,” said Drishtee CEO Satyan Mishra. “Acumen Fund’s resources, managerial expertise and relationships with global technology companies will prove to be extremely valuable for Drishtee's technology requirements as we scale our operations throughout the country.”

In addition to the commitment of financial resources, Acumen Fund is also advising Drishtee on managerial and operational issues. Acumen Fund and Drishtee are working together to use financial, social, and operational metrics to measure the investment’s sustainability, potential for scale and social impact – in line with the Acumen Fund philosophy that these factors are the key to creating long-lasting, widespread benefit. The financial metrics that will determine the investment’s success include total increase in gross and net revenues and income increases for kiosk owners and their employees; operational metrics include the strength of the management team, increased penetration of kiosks into rural areas and the increased availability of services in rural areas; and social metrics being analyzed include increased focus on rural markets by the private sector and improved quality of health, income, and education levels as a result of services and information available through the kiosks.

“India’s rural villages are home to over 775 million people that make up a market with an aggregate discretionary purchasing power of $2 billion,” said Varun Sahni, Acumen Fund’s India Country Manager. “Through the democratization of information and knowledge, the Internet has the power to become the great equalizer and enable the people of rural India to access needed goods and services that will provide them with higher quality education and healthcare and lead to increased incomes over the course of their lives.”

About Acumen Fund

Acumen Fund is a global venture philanthropy fund fostering the creation of blueprints for building financially sustainable and scalable organizations that deliver affordable, critical goods and services that improve the lives of the poor. Acumen Fund adheres to a disciplined process in selecting and managing its philanthropic investments as well as in measuring the social and economic returns of the enterprises it supports. For more information on Acumen Fund’s activities and investments, visit http://www.acumenfund.org.

About Drishtee

Drishtee is a rural network for delivering services and related information to the village of India through information kiosks run by entrepreneurs selected from the villages. Drishtee’s mission is to create and implement a sustainable platform of entrepreneurship will enable the development of India’s rural economy and society through the use of information and communication technologies.

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