Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

Our Organization

Frontier Markets Consulting Pvt. Ltd.

What is the name of your solution?

Frontier Markets’ Saral Jeevan Sahelis (Easy Life Friends)

Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

Aggregating Gender Inclusive Data At the Last Mile: Saral Jeevan Sahelis - Digitally Enabled Livelihood Facilitators

What specific problem are you solving?

Frontier Markets is driving access to quality and affordable health products and services to rural customers (primarily women) in India leveraging a strong network of rural women entrepreneurs, called Saral Jeevan Sahelis, who are using their assisted e-commerce platform called "Meri Saheli app" to facilitate sales and doorstep deliveries in their villages. Today, 20,000+ Sahelis have helped over 500,000 rural families adopt 10+ million solutions.

We believe that in order to truly drive a systems change approach to gender economic empowerment, the combination of market-based solutions, grassroots communities, skilling, and technology are critical. A hybrid online/offline assisted commerce platform, with Frontier Markets we have  developed a unique integrated business model with an aim to broaden rural communities’ access to high quality health products and services through a dependable women centric supply chain network. Through our network, we are training and empowering women entrepreneurs to sell healthcare products, solar power energy solutions, consumer durables, agri inputs and appliances, healthcare and digital financial services to rural communities through the proprietary vernacular assisted e-commerce platform.

We strongly believe that if we shift our lens from seeing rural families as beneficiaries to dignified customers, and women as social influencers and service providers – we can create a massive market place in rural India, and address climate challenges in the country.

What is your solution?

At Frontier Markets, we’re building the future of rural India, giving rural customers the dignity and opportunities they deserve, to create better lives. Our goal is to become the largest rural platform to become the voice for rural women driven by women. In taking this approach we are the only platform that is reaching the deep rural last mile, connecting directly with customers.

 

We invest in 500 Sahelis through women’s networks to cover 100 villages setting up our distribution hubs with 1 month, enabling break-even within 10 months of operations ensuring Sahelis earn a minimum of $400 in the first year.

 

We have not simply adapted urban or global models to hold this position. Our leadership team has over 100+ years of collective experience working directly in rural India in high growing industries including microfinance, telecom, marketing, supply chain, and technology.

 

Our proprietary commerce technology was made simple, built for our Sahelis, enabling them to help customers browse, learn about healthcare products, place orders, provide inputs/ feedback to gain insights. The platform addresses all categories including health products, durables, agriculture, financial services to daily needs.

 

Our highly trained women, our Sahelis, have become the influencers of their community while also earning a stable income to support their families. The technology was designed to help rural women become digital entrepreneurs; once trained, they become the connector to the rural customer – helping to generate demand, collect data, and coordinate local deliveries at the doorstep of the rural customer.

We have built an assisted e-commerce platform that connects rural households to both life-improving products and digital financial services. Frontier Markets creates local connective infrastructure through a network of rural women entrepreneurs that it recruits, trains, and deploys to facilitate doorstep sales and service delivery using its technology platform. Frontier Markets' rural women entrepreneurs (Saral Jeevan Sahelis) are embedded in their communities, allowing them to learn what rural households want and need, and to generate insights to identify the right-fit healthcare products and services. 

Frontier Markets has a tech suite to capture data from rural households and store that information in a back-end CRM. It has already developed infrastructure and data collection methods to optimize product-market fit and deploy digital finance services at the local level, while empowering rural women to participate. Because of technology, Frontier Markets can: 

1. Build specific, data-driven customer profiles that capture customer demand; 

2. Ensure product-market fit by connecting these profiles to possible solutions; 

3. Facilitate purchases to rural households and give access to the product they need. 

The technology product was co-designed with the Sahelis. Every icon, element, color schemes, words/phrases and walk-through was designed in consultation with the Sahelis. The initial UI was kept extremely simple and intuitive. At the same time, it was also essential to help not-so-literate Sahelis navigate through the app seamlessly. They needed assistance while adding a lead or placing orders. This is where Frontier Markets introduced a Voice Assistant AI Bot that helped the Sahelis navigate through the app easily. The entire tech is built on the AWS platform which provided all the initial tools. The current tech architecture is a modern, API-first and cloud-native architecture which: 

  • Helps Frontier Markets scale the business to any level without any downtime 

  • Also enables Frontier Markets to offer Tech as a service. 

  • Builds a business/consumer apps ecosystem on the Tech platform 

  • Makes it easy to continuously harness the data to insights lifecycle 

Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

Rural Indian women are not earning sustainable incomes. Less than 20% are engaged in formal economic activities, and even they are largely short-term opportunities. In addition to the burden of unpaid care and household work, social barriers also prevent rural women from accessing job opportunities outside their villages. We are offering an end-to-end solution for the entire rural value chain - from end customers, to women entrepreneurs, to product/service companies. 

Product and Service Companies - we are a tech first social commerce platform helping connecting companies to rural customers; we operate in regions where they do not have any distribution systems, or close customer connect. Our platform provides them with insights on rural customers, helping with stronger adoption, market access, and better ability to design. We work with over 46 companies and have 250+ SKUs. 

We designed a program that was suited for rural women - with flexible hours, zero mobility, and leveraging their social capital to build a strong reputation and earn long-term sustainable income to help their families and build agency. We have a network of 20,000+ Sahelis today who earn an annual income of 65K - our retention rate is 95% 

End Customers - offering them doorstep deliveries, after-sales service, customer service, access to high quality / affordable products and services that were unavailable prior to our entry. Categories of products include: Healthcare, climate, energy access, agri, financial services, FMCG, Fintech, and Consumer Durables. The company has a consumer base of 5 million and 500k rural households, and have sold over 10 million solutions with a 70% repeat rate. 

Women Entrepreneurs: We recruit, train, and provide digital access to rural women SHG members - making them into Saral Jeevan Sahelis, or social commerce entrepreneurs, who earn income through data collection and sales. Our network of women salesforce called “Saral Jeevan Sahelis” use technology enabled B2C platform “Meri Saheli” application. Leveraging their social capital, our sahelis help their neighborhood and community place orders and generate sales. We then with the help of our optimized supply chains and logistics, offer doorstep delivery. With every order placed and on every transaction, the sahelis are able to earn on a commission basis. Our product offerings range from impact solutions in particular Healthcare, climate, energy access, agri, financial services, FMCG, Fintech, Consumer Durables. Our Sahelis also conduct data collection,surveys and other customer insights for product companies to understand rural consumers better. 

This end to end platform has enabled Frontier Markets to respond to any crisis - for example Foraying into new verticals, our sahelis are now the champions of healthcare. We are also conducting awareness campaigns, Covid-19 Raksha kit distributions, self-care, hygiene practices for new moms in partnership with Reckitt Benkiser.

How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Our leadership team has over 100+ years of collective experience working directly in rural India in high growing industries including healthcare products and services, microfinance, telecom, marketing, supply chain, and technology.

The founder of the company, Ajaita in her leadership has helped Frontier Markets with recognition on global platforms. With 15+ years, she has committed to empowering rural women across the developing world through business models, financial inclusion, technology, data, clean energy, and inspiring women to push themselves beyond their societal boundaries.

Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

  • Employ unconventional or proxy data sources to inform primary health care performance improvement
  • Provide improved measurement methods that are low cost, fit-for-purpose, shareable across information systems, and streamlined for data collectors
  • Leverage existing systems, networks, and workflows to streamline the collection and interpretation of data to support meaningful use of primary health care data
  • Provide actionable, accountable, and accessible insights for health care providers, administrators, and/or funders that can be used to optimize the performance of primary health care

Where our solution team is headquartered or located:

Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Our solution's stage of development:

Scale

How many people does your solution currently serve?

Number of Customers: 350,552 Number of tons of Carbon Emission eliminated: 56,402 tons on FY 2021-22 Number of Sahelis Trained: 17,391 as of March 2022 Number of lives impacted in our catchment area: 4,447,811

Why are you applying to Solve?

Social Commerce will be a gateway for the ever evolving social needs. Product and service companies have never really understood rural customers, with help of insightful data collection Frontier Markets is not only helping women with opportunity but also brands cater to the largest customer base of the country, making it a win-win for both ends. Our customers, partners, employees, suppliers, investors are all content with the economic incentives and outcomes. It is time to shift the lens.

 

With Frontier Markets, we are developing a strong community of interaction and experience exchange with our Saheli network thereby focusing on social entrepreneurship as its core. The effort is in line with the overall thesis of MIT and its ever evolving innovation drive. 

 

India being beset by a host of cultural, economic and environmental problems, the rural communities here are in dire need of socially-minded entrepreneurs who can bring about positive change and that’s what we aim to resolve. Frontier Markets would further like to accelerate its technology efforts in developing a community of social entrepreneurs with a much needed gender focussed lens.

 

We hope to take the stories of our sahelis who are the ultimate social change makers  onto the global map via MIT. See rural markets not rural areas; dignified customers, not beneficiaries; women as smart business drivers, not social enablers. We are working to make the world realize how rural markets are the future of the world.

Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Ajaita Shah, Founder and CEO, FM

Page 3: More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

Frontier Markets invests in rural women and connecting quality products to rural customers through a hybrid-social commerce platform. 

Meet Radha and Gauri, they are from Alwar Rajasthan, where they have spent the last 10 years participating in government programs to get digital skills, save money, thinking about the future of their children, and wanting to participate in the formal economy. Their village has internet connectivity, they have new paved roads, they use whatsapp, they have electricity. They want access to quality solutions to address their life needs. From better appliances, to smart phones, to affordable finance, agri tools – to improve their economic status, to be a part of a larger economy. 

But due to traditional perceptions of inadequate infrastructure, high entry costs, and lack of purchasing power among rural consumers, 700 MN people are still missing access to even basic goods and services. Product and service companies want to reach the last mile but have not been able to cater to this segment. The challenge is that product and service companies have not invested in deep, doorstep customer access – preventing them from customizing for this massive rural market - from products, to services, to supply chain design, to digital tools and solutions – they have not been to match customer insights with solutions to address demand, distribution, digital solutions. 

Add to this, the lack of a strong gender lens – most initiatives in rural India to build the supply chains have been short-lived, the digital divide amongst women is the highest, they are not accessing long-term market-based skills to drive business opportunities, and therefore, accessing long term income opportunities to really drive rural markets and economies. 

Frontier Markets has partnered with women to change this. We believe that social commerce is the future of rural India, and women are the driving force to make it happen. 

Our Saral Jeevan Sahelis, rural women helping their family, friends and neighbors access all kinds of products and services at their doorstep through a vernacular and voice enabled e-commerce solution designed for them. The Meri Saheli app was designed with our Sahelis 4 years ago – to have local languages, voice bots, voice to text, and an AI training bot to help all kinds of women (digital savvy, illiterate) to use a digital tool to do their work. Sahelis use The Meri Saheli app to demonstrate products, facilitate online sales, and collect insights on what rural families require. Building an online and offline store experience, earning income for data collection, facilitation and demand generation. They are the trusted influencer of their village, bridging the gap between products and rural families.  

This is supported by a local tech-enabled delivery and after-sales service team ensuring every customer gets their products within 48 hours at their doorstep. Tracking real-time data and insights from all operations.

Leveraging these insights, Frontier Markets has partnered with 100+ companies to help rural families adopt 15 million solutions –in healthcare, clean energy, agriculture, smart phones, and appliances helping customers build real assets. 

Making our platform the first hybrid online-offline platform to reach rural customers at the last village and connecting products in a low-cost, effective way. We have become the gatekeeper of quality products to rural customers based on their demand and opinions. Influencing in the rural market - both for product companies to better design for rural customers, and helping customers make impactful product decisions.

Today 18,000 Sahelis who have earned over $20MN of income are investing in their children’s futures, voicing their communities' needs and becoming leaders in their villages. Helping over 375,000 Rural Families build $25MN worth of savings and earnings through quality products. 70% of our customers have been women.

What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

Our goal is to become the largest rural commerce platform in the country, onboarding 500K Sahelis with 50 million rural customers, scaling innovative solutions in Healthcare, Climate, Financial Services, Agriculture, and Education.

The combination of data and insights has enabled strong growth in sales, net revenues, while retaining profitability while growing operations. And now we are ready to scale what works. We have secured partnerships with the Indian government. They have developed the largest rural women network in the world - over 80MN rural women. We plan to continue to build our partnership to enter into new states and deepen our presence in existing states to grow fast. 

Leveraging our platform, we will also continue to onboard more partners that are working in our existing verticals to develop targeted products for rural communities in financial services, climate innovation and other services. In doing so, FM becomes the gateway to connect to rural customers.

We are raising $12MN to invest in our operational growth, new leadership members, data-driven technology enhancements to support this. We are poised to become the first $1BN rural commerce solution with rural women networks in the country with your support. 

How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

At Frontier Markets, we’re building the future of rural India, giving rural customers the dignity and opportunities they deserve to create better lives. Our goal is to become the largest rural platform to become the voice for rural women driven by women.

 

We are focusing on government partnership for faster penetration. Aligned with the thoughts of financial inclusion, women empowerment and holistic development we have partnership with Uttar Pradesh State Rural Development Mission. We are signing MoUs with state governments of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan in India. We recently have also partnered with global brand Reckitt Benkiser for our healthcare vertical. More such strategic partnerships in the future will help us achieve the scale we are aiming for.

Frontier Markets tracks Finance, Impact, and Operations metrics leveraging digital tools for data collection, data aggregation and analysis to develop reports to understand Saheli, customer, and business impacts daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually. The data is collected to develop various dashboards which are used for control over assumptions of outputs, to actual outcomes for the organization. These dashboard are reviewed by teams regularly to track any risks or challenges, as well as innovate on incentives for positive outcomes

 

Currently, we have collected 200,000+ customers’ basic data. This information was collected by our network of women entrepreneurs on our mobile app and is stored in our CRM system. We are continuously collecting and aggregating customer data through our established infrastructure to build a deeper understanding of rural customers’ purchasing power, timelines, consumption patterns, and requirements for products and services.

 

Our Meri Saheli App (mobile app) also helps us understand our Saral Jeevan Sahelis. We know their occupations, involvement with government schemes and projects, savings, literacy rates, social connections, earnings, and purchasing patterns that generate insights about how to design solutions specifically for women. We have direct access to rural households on a daily basis, and we get an additional data points from each customer every month.

 

In addition to this, FM’s D2C engagement team (Cal Centre) and Whatsapp AI Bot, helps collect relevant information and insights from our end customers directly. Frontier Markets has also engaged with third party evaluation partners like Intellicap and 60 Decibels for understanding customer loyalty and Promotor scores.

 

With tech investments, leveraging technology and product partners we intend to deepen our presence in rural areas. Frontier Markets will be the largest rural commerce platform in the country, onboarding 500K Sahelis with 50 million rural customers, becoming $10BN+ company in transactions - scaling innovative solutions in Climate, Financial Services, Agriculture, Healthcare, and Education. Gearing to become the first social commerce Unicorn in India, we are raising our Series B of $20MN to accelerate and ramp up to the next 100K Sahelis in less than 18 months now.

What is your theory of change?

I honestly would like to draw attention towards the ‘modern’ Rural India – who wants access to products and services like we in an urban setting would do, empower these communities in every little possible way that I can with FM and give them a voice to be heard in the right way.

Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

We are offering an end-to-end solution for the entire rural value chain - from end customers, to women entrepreneurs, to product/service companies. 

Product and Service Companies - we are a tech first social commerce platform helping connecting companies to rural customers; we operate in regions where they do not have any distribution systems, or close customer connect. Our platform provides them with insights on rural customers, helping with stronger adoption, market access, and better ability to design. We work with over 46 companies and have 250+ SKUs. 

We designed a program that was suited for rural women - with flexible hours, zero mobility, and leveraging their social capital to build a strong reputation and earn long-term sustainable income to help their families and build agency. We have a network of 20000+ Sahelis today who earn an annual income of 65K - our retention rate is 95% 

End Customers - offering them doorstep deliveries, after-sales service, customer service, access to high quality / affordable products and services that were unavailable prior to our entry. Categories of products include: Healthcare products and services, climate, energy access, agri, financial services, Fintech, Consumer Durables, and healthcare. The company has a consumer base of 5 million and 500k rural households, and have sold over 10 million solutions with a 70% repeat rate. 

Women Entrepreneurs: we recruit, train, and provide digital access to rural women SHG members - making them into Saral Jeevan Sahelis, or social commerce entrepreneurs, who earn income through data collection and sales. Our network of women salesforce called “Saral Jeevan Sahelis” use technology enabled B2B platform “Meri Saheli” application. Leveraging their social capital, our sahelis help their neighborhood and community place orders and generate sales. We then with the help of our optimized supply chains and logistics, offer doorstep delivery. With every order placed and on every transaction, the sahelis are able to earn on a commission basis. Our product offerings range from impact solutions in Healthcare products and services, climate, energy access, agri, financial services, Fintech, Consumer Durables. Our Sahelis also conduct data collection, surveys and other customer insights for product companies to understand rural consumers better. 

This end to end platform has enabled Frontier Markets to respond to any crisis - for example Foraying into new verticals, our sahelis are now the champions of healthcare. We are also conducting awareness campaigns, Covid-19 Raksha kit distributions, self-care, hygiene practices for new moms in partnership with Reckitt Benkiser. 

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new application of an existing technology

Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning
  • Blockchain

Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 3. Good Health and Well-being
  • 4. Quality Education
  • 5. Gender Equality
  • 7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  • 9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • 10. Reduced Inequalities
  • 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities

In which countries do you currently operate?

  • India

In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • India

Who collects the primary health care data for your solution?

We collect our data through;

  • CRM Data of Sales & Lead Generation

  • Survey tools being used by Sahelis via the app, co created by partners to get deep insights

  • 3rd party evaluations done by impact investors, research groups, and ecosystem partners 

  • We track income generated by each women entrepreneurs on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis

  • We track leads generated / or consumer demand

  • We track products sold to consumers

  • We track savings, earnings, and usage of solutions by customers

  • We have impact evaluations on economic empowerment for women and interventions

  • We also have baseline data on what rural households need to address their challenges

Page 4: Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

For-profit, including B-Corp or similar models

How many people work on your solution team?

Number of current full-time employees hired- 303 Number of current part-time /temporary employees hired- 42

How long have you been working on your solution?

10 Years

What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?

Frontier Markets strongly believes that investing in women is the key to poverty alleviation at scale. As a female-led organization, Frontier Markets has focused on the development of women at both the village and head-office corporate level for a decade. It leverages its all-female on-ground salesforce to reach rural consumers (70% of which are women), gather data insights, and apply a gender lens to its product and service offerings. This empowered workforce builds agency for other women and influences communities at large. 

Frontier Markets helps rural families access quality, affordable solutions to live an “Easy Life” (Saral Jeevan). Through the Sahelis, FM accesses rich data to understand low-income rural families’ challenges to meet productivity, safety, and aspiration needs to deliver relevant solutions in agriculture, clean energy, digital financial services, consumer electronics and appliances. Products are delivered to the customer’s home, with after-sales service support. 70% of Frontier Markets’s customer base are women driving a gender-lens product basket, including solutions like femine hygiene and baby care. Till date, Frontier Markets’ rural consumers have saved 46K hours due to increased productivity and have earned or saved $25MN+. 

Page 5: Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

Frontier Markets has built an all-in-one platform that allows it to digitally manage all point-of-sale transactions, interface with its value chain partners, and track deliveries in real-time from warehouse to last mile consumer. With FM’s platform, the Sahelis help facilitate adoption of e-commerce for rural households, while capturing valuable customer insights. The hybrid platform creates a phygital store driven by women connecting customers to all types of solutions and data collection. FM has developed a robust information management system that tracks consumer demand, spending patterns, market mapping and penetration through the Saheli network on a household level.

REVENUE STREAM: In exchange for offering services via different product verticals, we generate revenue through the facilitation of sales, commission against products sold through the platform, as well as marketing fees for helping product companies test markets, learn customer insights, or use its platform for marketing

Our 3 major revenue streams are: 

a) Commission from Sales against Products on our Platform 

b) Digital service fees for transactions on our platform

c) Service revenues from our brand partners for customer insights / go to market pilots

Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)

What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?

Our goal is to become the largest rural commerce platform in the country, onboarding 500K Sahelis with 50 million rural customers, becoming $10BN+ company in transactions - scaling innovative solutions in Climate, Financial Services, Agriculture, Healthcare, and Education.

 

The combination of data and insights has enabled strong growth in sales, net revenues, while retaining profitability while growing operations. And now we are ready to scale what works. We have secured partnerships with the Indian government. They have developed the largest rural women network in the world - over 80MN rural women. We plan to continue to build our partnership to enter into new states and deepen our presence in existing states to grow fast.

 

Leveraging our platform, we will also continue to onboard more partners that are working in our existing verticals to develop targeted products for rural communities in financial services, climate innovation and other services. In doing so, FM becomes the gateway to connect to rural customers.

 

We are raising $12MN to invest in our operational growth, new leadership members, data-driven technology enhancements to support this. We are poised to become the first $1BN rural commerce solution with rural women networks in the country with your support.

Share some examples of how your plan to achieve financial sustainability has been successful so far.

We have a total of 60+ partnerships with national and global brands. Each partnership has helped us in different ways. For example- during the first lockdown we partnered with multiple cattle feed brands and offered subscription-based door-step delivery. While women were earlier traveling 5 kms carrying 50kgs of cattle feed bags, they can now place orders for quality and affordable fodder at home. 

As an immediate emergency response to Covid-19, we took the initiative of a multi-level collaboration- “Rural Access Coalition” with two other rural tech start-ups Hesa and 1Bridge, and other enablers, including Sattva, United Way Delhi, Noora Health, Armaan, and others. 

The first of its kind initiative to overcome grass-root level challenges in rural India directly and quickly, Rural Access Coalition is helping customers and families with resources through our gender lens. Our 12,500 Saheli network connected deeply to amplify the gender-based health needs of the community alongside accessibility, connectivity, economic development and opportunities. Millions of lives have been left behind from the necessary healthcare as an impact of Covid-19, and it was the need of the hour for social entrepreneurs to join hands to support millions of lives. Identifying the need gap during the crisis Rural Access Coalition is distributing Raksha kits including N95 face masks, hand sanitizer, vitamin C, oximeter, digital thermometer, access to essential services, and awareness campaigns through COVID-19. 

Our end-to-end platform has enabled us to respond to any crisis - for example Foraying into new verticals, our sahelis are now the champions of healthcare. We are also conducting awareness campaigns, Covid-19 Raksha kit distributions, self-care, hygiene practices for new moms in partnership with Reckitt Benkiser. 

Recently, we also partnered with the Government of Uttar Pradesh [Uttar Pradesh State Rural Livelihood Mission (UPSRLM)] and Rajasthan to promote rural women entrepreneurship in the states. This partnership helps rural women entrepreneurs earn enhanced income as Sahelis and diminish poverty. Committed to empowering rural women with dignified livelihoods and employment opportunities, the initiative is leading to an overall development of the rural communities in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

The partnership is helping us onboard 2000 rural women as Frontier Markets Sahelis with Self Help Groups (SHGs) and train them to leverage technology through the Frontier Markets e-commerce platform “Meri Saheli” and generate an income of 50K - 60K per annum. Leveraging Banking Correspondent Sakhi (BCs), the organic part of the SHGs trained in conducting financial transactions will be trained to generate sales leads and data collection.

Solution Team

 
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