Women in rural Rajasthan, where large online marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart do not deliver, are becoming the last-mile link between consumers and sellers for a wide-range of products, including large consumer appliances such as TV, washing machine, fridges, mixies (local term for mixers), baati ( Rajasthani dish)- making oven and cattle feed.

Frontier Markets, a company in this space floated by Ajaita Shah, is technologically enabling rural women to use their social network and social capital in the village to book orders and help provide after-sales service for those products. Frontier Markets handles the last-mile delivery with its warehouse infrastructure and mobile camps for after-sales services. It has plans to expand toUttar Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha.

Shah, Founder of Frontier Markets, who has experience in India’s micro finance sector, has designed “Meri Saheli” app, which has about 10,000 women users. The Meri Saheli app through its women networkers, who are usually from self-help groups, sells curated products for rural areas. Each Saheli, who is smartphone-enabled, serves 50 households and earns through commission on products sold and also through payments by doing surveys in rural areas for large companies.

As these ladies are entrenched in villages and have strong social capital, Frontier Markets is building its brand by onboarding only those sellers who will not be perceived as those ditching customers after selling their products.

“We are a supply chain company that uses data to understand the needs of rural customer, and serve them through a hyper-local supply chain supported by a network of 14 warehouses. Also, we focus on providing good quality product at as competitive a price as is possible,” Shah told BusinessLine , adding that having understood the pain-points of rural customers, Frontier Markets provides after-sales service for all the brands like Samsung, Usha, Crompton that it onboards. Each saheli sells about 131 products or services in a year.

When COVID-19 hit last year followed by lockdowns, Frontier Markets, which was connected to villages through their smartphone using women, was able to inform Rajasthan State authorities regarding challenges faced in these locations regarding unavailability of essential services and groceries.

“Nobody understands the rural markets as the women do, who are the influencers and decision makers…For instance, they have to walk several kilometres to reach the nearest consumer durable seller…Also, we never push a product…we ask them to give a feedback on what they need…at times they simply click a photo of a product, put in on WhatsApp, ask if we can have it on the platform,” said Shah, whose company has seen “Sahelis” on its platform grow about 2.5 times in the last one year to 10,000.

The company which is operationally profitable, had started services in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar but had to discontinue after the lockdown. It is now looking to raise about $6 million for growth capital to restart and expand services in these and other states, according to Shah, who is confident of achieving exponential growth over the next few years.

Also the company has seen its customers soar in last year supported by insightful inputs like demand for doorstep delivery for cattle feed, a product that Frontier Markets started selling.