The Scope and Impact of AISECT | AISECT, EO Bhopal
Updated: Apr 7
This is the second of a two-part article on AISECT. For the second part, focusing on their educational focus, click here.
There has always been a disconnect between country life and the big city, regardless of where in the world you are. In India, the rural villages often lack not only the comforts we associate with metropolitan living, but key modernities that improve life. Bridging the gap isn’t easy, let alone immediately profitable for those with the means to make it possible. That however wasn’t the case for several engineers and academics from Bhopal in 1985 when they established AISECT. Today, they have grown to become India’s leading social enterprise, reaching well beyond Bhopal in the years since. We’ve detailed in a recent article what they have done on an educational end, highlighted by the 5 universities they've built in recent years. Through their years of tireless work, AISECT has worked in line with a number of the UNs Sustainability Development Goals. In this article, we want to take a look at the reach, and some of the results that comprise the overall impact that AISECT has had, especially in recent years. As Hall of Fame awardees in this year’s MyEO Engage Social Impact Business Awards, there is so much good that has emerged from their work. Through their high quality skills education, they have been at the forefront of empowering people across India. The infrastructure they have pioneered has led to scalable and sustainable development over their 30 years of operations, and the results are amazing
Where exactly they are in India
Understanding India’s geography can be a doozy for the uninitiated. The whole of India is divided into 29 states as well as 7 union territories, having 36 total regional entities. The whole of India has regional nuances and dynamics, all the way down to the smallest village’s panchayat. AISECT has a presence in all of the 29 states, and 3 union territories. Where it boils down to is that their presence can be felt down to the almost 7,200 panchayats that they are embedded in.
To be able to reach so many of these village groups across multiple states, languages, and religious situations is a feat in itself. For AISECT to be able to have not only have one or two kiosks, but real market penetration in the smallest of government units. This rapid growth is in part thanks to Siddharth Chaturvedi, current director of AISECT who took over operations in 2009. The expansion strategies that resulted in significant growth in his 10 years helming AISECT can be attributed to his challenge to bring their brand all over India. In an interview with Curriculum Magazine, Chaturvedi said that when he joined the organization, AISECT had 6,000 centres in limited states.Today, the organization has over 20,000 centres at the small town, district and block levels across 29 States and 3 Union Territories, offering educational courses, skill development programs and various other services. To date, they have also executed hundreds of Central and State Government funded programs, focusing on skills development.
Providing more through AISECT
The integration of government projects is not much of a stretch, considering that the trust that is tied to the AISECT brand all over the country. At every point of intervention, AISECT has seen the opportunity to do a little bit more apart from their core focus of providing educational services. One of these projects is the Common Services Centres, a delivery point for government services through AISECTs infrastructure. In this instance, this joint venture has allowed Indian citizens to avail of a number of services that would otherwise not be available in their blocks, some of which are often deemed to remote at times. The CSC model have enabled various data gathering projects to succeed, from registering farmers online, to a census-like collection for the National Population Register. AISECT CSC efficiency is also a major driver for the biometric and demographic data for the Unique Identification systems, known locally as Aadhaar. This kind of inclusion and access to national level services have brought hundreds of thousands of citizens into India’s e-governance coverage.
AISECTs services extended beyond providing education and government services in the areas they cover. In 2013, they launched a job portal that was focused on employing skilled workers from rural areas. Rojgar Mantra as it’s known, is an online job forum that focused on organizing work forces in these rural areas. On RojgarMantra.com, both employers and job seekers have effectively used the platform in places where services like this are usually non-existent. The placement services help job seekers figure out their level of qualification, streamlining their job hunts based on their skill sets. Potential employers also utilize RojgarMantra to test and screen candidates who, though qualified, may live much further away from where they will work. Well over 200,000 job seekers and 600 companies have used RojgarMantra over the years to much success.
Entrepreneurship and enduring impact
One of the results of providing inclusive programs, and quality education has been forward thinking graduates. The ability of the AISECT Universities and centers to equip their students with life skills to forge their own path, whatever path they choose. The skills learned, coupled with placement opportunities to vastly improve their livelihood opportunities. In this vein, there are many people who get the chance to build their own businesses, or build on that of their family. There are several cases that AISECT has chosen to show exactly how their students elect to do with their training.
In the provinces where they are present, the entrepreneurial spirit and incremental progress is growing. There is however another aspect of entrepreneurship that goes beyond using the degrees by bringing AISECTs brand to others through a franchising model. These allow people to open up their own IT education centers, giving qualified individuals the infrastructure to operate AISECT-like work on a grassroots level, with standardized material and training.
How these smaller franchises succeed is through a ton of below-line-marketing efforts, ensuring that their franchisees delivers low-cost, high-quality investments. Many of these centers become fully sustainable after 2 years of operations, with the promise of incremental growth after realizing ROI. These rural centres focus on enrolling a steady student base who benefit from engaging courses, presented in their native language.The head office still involves itself supports the franchisees through their own training of trainers, establishing of fees, and monitoring of progress at every level. This kind of entrepreneurship has made for stable businesses for those who may not have been students or graduates of AISECT, yet have invested in the brand.
These centres do offer more than just IT-learning, creating this Multi-purpose Center Model that allows one kiosk point to engage in a number of ancillary activities. These centers have become trusted hubs that sell the technology they advocate for, specifically mobile phones, SIM cards, and satellite TV access, alongside printing and photocopying services. Other service that are offered through the centers include the sale and processing of state-centric products like insurance policies and banking opportunities. AISECT’s entrepreneurship model through franchising integrates so many products, allowing disadvantaged people to enjoy alternative livelihood options.
AISECTs Impact Today
In 1999, the World Bank reported on AISECTs Model, finding it to be "the most sustainable and scalable form of IT penetration & popularization in India.” The praise for AISECT back then is still incredibly relevant today. Over their 30 years of work, that they have created a vast network of socially uplifting enterprises that continue to change lives today. AISECTs understanding of the rural population, gives them the ability to best deliver quality education, employment, and various services to these areas. Since 2009, AISECT has been under the directorship of power couple Siddharth & Pallavi Rao Chaturvedi. In the time since, the organization has seen a period of steady expansion and evolution, never compromising the quality of education and service that they provide. Their lasting legacy is already cemented as a one of a kind organization that can, and can be emulated by so many others. Today, AISECT looks to expand further into untapped and undeveloped markets, fueled by the students and entrepreneurs that know the potential that AISECT can deliver. Moving forward, there is still so much opportunity for them to take their model to the provinces they haven't reached. The potential of AISECT as an enterprise, and as an educational institution is still not fully realized, but constantly growing to new levels every year.
AISECT has been at the forefront of social enterprise in India for the past 30 years. Their story of reaching the can read the first feature that looks at their work spreading education to all of India here. You can follow their work on Facebook, on their official website, or their YouTube page for more updates on all things AISECT.