Targeting consumers, creating entrepreneurs

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on July 23, 2012

A group of corporate executives have founded a social enterprise ‘Project Dharma’ to build last-mile connectivity between rural consumers and companies.

Based on the direct sales model, this rural marketing programme builds a distribution system targeted largely at “below poverty line” rural consumers even while creating village-level entrepreneurs.

Project Dharma, supported by Shell Foundation, has created 1,000 entrepreneurs and reaches out to consumers in States such as Maharashtra, Bihar, Karnataka and UP.

“We plan to create 20,000 village-level entrepreneurs and reach out to 10 million consumers in the long-term as we scale up,” said Mr Gaurav Mehta, Co-founder and CEO of the project.

He said the company does a lot of research in identifying the locations that have often little access to products. “In addition, we use people from village communities, train them as entrepreneurs who sell these products and increase penetration of the products in these areas,” Mr Mehta said.

Coca-Cola, Hindustan Unliever, Envirofit and Dlight are among the companies that are associated with the organisation to sell products to these communities. Coca-Cola, for instance, uses Project Dharma’s distribution network to reach out to rural women and children with its nutrition drink, Vitingo. Similarly, HUL sells water purifiers under its Pureit brand.

Mr Mehta said, “It is important for our model to generate revenues for us to be able to scale up. While some companies sell these products “for profit”, others sell products on a “no-profit no-loss” basis,” Mr Mehta said.

Project Dharma hopes to break-even in the next two years and plans to reach out to rural population in other States as well. Currently, it sells products such as smokeless chulahs, solar lamps, inverters, cooling solutions, water purifiers and fortified drinks.


Published on July 23, 2012

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