Sahaj e-Village, an associate company of Srei Infrastructure Finance Ltd, is eyeing growth through e-commerce in rural areas.

The company will begin a pilot with e-tailer, ShopClues where a host of customised products will be offered. Sahaj common service centres will be the point from which rural consumers can place orders.

According to Sanjay Nandrajog, Group CEO, some of Sahaj’s common service centres which have been co-branded as “iTiger” will be initially leveraged. Under the pilot, there will be a select category of products that “iTiger” stores can access and order once they log in to the ShopClues site.

Around 1,000 top Sahaj Kendras (or common service centres) will be pushed for the roll-out of this pilot.

“The project will be taken up on a pilot basis and based on the learnings we may expand its scope and reach,” he told BusinessLine on the sidelines of a CII programme.

Sahaj currently has 75,000 common service centres in India, of which 300-odd are iTiger ones. Nearly, 1,000 Sahaj stores are being added every month.

According to Nandrajog, the company has a gross merchandise value of ₹ 300 crore per month.

Leveraging the Network

Sahaj’s common service centres were initially conceived to provide government-to-citizen services such as birth certificates. Their scope was extended to add a variety of offerings that include banking services through the business correspondent model; selling insurance products and also booking of air and train tickets. Later services like Aadhaar-enabled payment systems and Bharat Bill Pay were also added. This apart, the network also offers a host of retail services like selling of FMCG products and mobile phones. Plans are now afoot to sell gold coins ahead of Diwali.

Turning Profitable

Banking, financial services and insurance offerings account for nearly a third of its business. According to Nandrajog, Sahaj is expected to break even in the “second half of this fiscal”. For FY18, Sahaj reported a net loss of approximately ₹16 crore.

As per Srei’s last annual report (2017-18), Sahaj “is a long-gestation rural distribution & e-governance initiative” and due to the accumulated losses, its “net worth has eroded” as on March 31, 2018. However, a number of steps have been taken as part of a revamped business plan and its performance is expected to improve significantly over the coming years and that it shall continue to be a going concern in the foreseeable future.

Srei has an investment of approximately ₹11 crore in the associate company. Further, it has advanced loans worth around ₹121 crore to Sahaj.