The Rural Distribution Network India (RUDI) has introduced a mobile phone application to quadruple the incomes of rural Indian women, according to an article by the Guardian on June 10.
RUDI is a large rural cooperative founded by India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) whose mission is to empower Indian women. The RUDI network is designed to gather produce from a collaboration of India’s poor farmers and allow them to obtain higher prices on wholesale markets. Once the produce is sourced from these farmers, rural saleswomen travel throughout villages to sell the goods. This simple business model has rapidly expanded to include around 2,000 businesswomen in Gujarat, India. However, the success has not been without its drawbacks.
Originally the women involved in the project were sent out into the villages to find sales and then had to travel long distances back to the RUDI centers in order to place these orders. The majority of the saleswomen’s time was spent traveling to and from the RUDI centers.
SEWA collaborated with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Vodafone India to create a mobile phone application that allows these saleswomen to place orders through text messages on the low tech mobile phones that they were already using. This saves these women the time they used to spend placing orders and allows them to make more sales, which has drastically increased their profits. One saleswoman saw her income increase from 250 rupees to 5,000 rupees a day.
Empowering these women in such a way can lift whole communities out of poverty. Women, unlike men, are likely to invest about 90 percent of their income back into their own communities, thereby contributing to economic growth within the area. According to the Global Poverty Project, women also make up nearly 70 percent of the world’s 1 billion poorest people, and produce half of the world’s food. As former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan put it: “there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.”