Two separate socially oriented start-ups in India have caught my eye lately.
The theme is this: Facilitating labor and service transactions in the informal/small business sectors by bridging the digital divide.
The first is Babajob, which claims to be the “Linked-In of the Village.” Babajob started with the somewhat proposterous idea of an online job market for the informal sector (think cooks, maids, drivers, security guards). This was in response to a perceived failure in the labor market in Bangalore — a lot of wealthy business professionals who were having trouble identifying reliable help in an informal sector with no shortage of underemployment. Babajob layered on the even more proposterous idea of creating a social network for the underemployed workers, many of who do not have access to computers and some of who are illiterate.
The founder, Sean Blagsvedt, saw the failure in the labor market as a symptom for the Indian social requirement of hiring through relationships. Hence the social network. If Indians are only willing to hire informal help recommended to them by friends, the best thing you can do is make them completely aware of the full extent of their social networks.
The challenge is creating a usable social network for the informal sector (who often lack computer literacy / availability). Babajob lets the free market go to work — offering up part of the service fees to referrers who sign people up for the site. Those interested in being referers might include internet cafes, non-profits and enterprising relatives. With a sufficiently robust social network you can start making connections like “My cousin’s cook has a sister who is looking for work as a maid. ”
The second is GreenMango (thanks Molly for the tip). GreenMango is based in Hyderabad and seeks to provide a rudimentary marketinng platform for low-income businesses. Think Online YellowPages for the millions of daily service providers in India (electricians, tailors, plumbers). The problem they attack is this: Many of these businesses can not afford to advertise and remain hidden to their prospective clients. At the same time consumers report difficulty finding reliable service providers. GreenMango seeks to faciliate these transactions by supplying a recommendation-fueled online resource and allowing small businesses to grow bigger.
The virtuous cycle produced by services like GreenMango is one that we have touched on before: Growing businesses = more employment, more human capital, higher wages, more demand for goods and services = Growing businessses. Rince, wash, repeat.
Tags: social entrepreneurship