Wednesday, July 18


The four of us met with Ashok Khosla, founder of TaraHaat. It's essentially an Internet portal supporting a network of franchised village Internet centers in rural India. It delivers a wide range of social and economic information, as well as educational and other services, earning revenues through fee for service, membership fees, and commissions.

Mr. Khosla invited us to his home to have the meeting. I instantly liked him when I saw him. He was an elderly gentleman. As soon as I met him I got the feeling that he wasn't meeting us as 'competitors' but as partners in change. Hence, he wouldn't hold back information because we may steal his ideas. At our end, since we were quite new in this area, we were there to learn from him and pick his brain about the things he had learned over the years in this space. Also, we also wanted to see if there is anyway we can partner with TaraHaat in the future as our business plan evolves.

The meeting was extremely fruitful. We went into the meeting thinking we'd be out in half an hour. Instead we walked out almost two hours later. Mr. Khosla was very frank about the organization's strengths and weaknesses. He answered our questions and gave us his insights. And he told us some interesting stories.

For example, he told us about this old woman who once came to a TaraHaat center with a Puja thali and flowers. She got on to a computer and soon enough opened a site that showed information and pictures of Badrinath. The old lady did her Puja and then left. This wasn't the first time the old lady had come to the TaraHaat center and done this. The previous week she had visited Kedarnath. She knew she would never be able to go to these holy places so she would come to the Tarahaat center and "visit" them and do her Puja.

The story just showed me that it is hard to assume what access to computer and the internet means to each individual. The internet allowed the old woman to "visit" the places she always wished to go to but just couldn't. Until now.

We finally left the meeting with a lot of information and a lot of things to think about.

And oh, TaraHaat is a publicly traded company for those of you who would consider betting your money on it's success. =)

~ Raina


Viren said...

Puja on the net... hmmm.. interesting.. huge possibilities there.... go Ms.Singh go...

PrajK said...

Are you going to incorporate any of his ideas into your business? And btw, the TaraHaat link you have doesn't work so I couldn't check out Khosla's site.

nirvaana said...

the idea is brilliant and has tremendous potential, however, I am not sure if I agree with the business model. The whole purpose behind this is to serve the poor. Why should they be charged membership fees? There are other ways to monetize this, like generate advertising revenue from companies that want to sell to these rural areas, or even advertise something that is related to the activities that villagers most frequently do. If the number of women who perform Badrinath puja on the internet forms a significant chunk, there is a fair likelihood that these women are interested in other religious activities, and could be connected with advertisers who provide religious goods and services. Bottom line, if you charge the villager membership fees, then the true value of this noble endeavor is still unlocked.

shivendu said...

I differ with Niravaan....there should be some token amount charged, no matter how noble the cause is.Freebies have never been valued in this country.Same should be applied to any new initiative of Hiwel too.How much, doesnt matters, but plz do charge something for anything you provide.


Sonzy said...

Well, interesting post. Though I could never find the place / exchange where TARAHAAT is traded.
NSE, BSE, where ? Or maybe some overseas exchange ? Kindly specify.

Ramsu said...

Interesting story, that.

I remember there used to be a website that allowed you to do an e-Puja, using some primitive graphics. I didn't think that site would work, but some people I know used to visit that site every day.

Quite an interesting blog you have here - Shradha pointed me to it a while ago and I've been following it semi-regularly ever since. Keep blogging, folks!