Local entrepreneurs created by the Common Service Centres (CSCs) are ready to take on the Nielsens of the world and emerge as market research agencies or an agency conducting surveys for the government as well as the private sector.

Enthused with the recently assigned task by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation to do the fieldwork for the 7th Economic Census, CSC e-Governance Services India Ltd — a special purpose vehicle under the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology — feels that it is ready to also undertake the population census fieldwork.

Dinesh Tyagi, Chief Executive Officer of the CSC initiative, said “This is for the first time that we are doing survey work. Our objective is to do population census. With all the technology available why should a census be done once in 10 years, it should be done every two years. We are going to pitch for getting the project.”

In fact, the cost incurred for CSC to do the task is also lower than that of private or multinational agencies, he told BusinessLine.

Tyagi agreed that the MoSPI project was challenging.

“It was not easy to convince them. We told them that CSCs have access across geographies. This is a big plus. If you want to do something across the country in a simple manner and that too in a set timeline, CSC is an option,” he said.

“Many of them (CSCs) are entrepreneurs who are using IT as a tool for delivering various services. To do things not using paper and building a model, which is far better and transparent, will help you (MoSPI), is what we told them,” said Tyagi.

To ensure that there is no data manipulation, he said, “In CSC, you are using a professional to do the survey. Earlier you used school teachers for the work. We told MoSPI that we will make an application based on their parameters. They (MoSPI) too wanted to get out of the paper mode.”

“Once an enumerator finishes the enrolment then the entire data comes to the supervisor, who again goes through the information. The supervisor can change some data points if there is an error found at the first level. Then it goes to NSSO office where again it will be verified both physically and otherwise. Each area is given a score. If the scoring is negative then the entire survey has to be done again.”

“We tell the CSCs to take minimum five people to do the task because there will be some retrenchment. Survey work is difficult, so you should have a back up ready,” he said.

So how much remuneration has the project got for the CSCs? Tyagi is quick to say, “Since this was for the first time, we were not able to bargain on the price. We accepted their terms and whatever remuneration they decided. But, next we will be better prepared. We also need to create wealth for these entrepreneurs and we need to create sufficient excitement. So, we told the CSCs that start with this, though you may not make much income now, next time you will get a significant sum.”

To ensure data is also secured, the CSCs don’t engage intermediaries, Tyagi said adding that the entire money is given to the enumerator or the entrepreneurs. “Besides, we are clear that we will not do any political survey. In business you don’t do any politics,” he said.