Dharma Life Summary

Dharma Life catalyses rural employment and creates a market for new types of “social-impact” products that deliver economic and social benefits to low-income consumers in remote areas.

700 million people live in rural parts of India

Three billion people in the world – 700 million in India alone – live in rural, typically impoverished, villages and towns – with their future prospects restricted by the absence of the basic amenities required for health, education and income generation.

Dharma-entrepreneurs-in-action.jpgClean cookstoves, solar lights or water purifiers are examples of social-impact products that offer consumers a chance to enhance quality of life and earning potential, and help to drive inclusive development in rural areas. Yet rural customers mostly live in small, isolated villages, dispersed across vast distances. Lack of infrastructure, low margins and minimal consumer awareness mean manufacturers of these products can rarely afford to serve these markets.

In 2010, Shell Foundation partnered with Gaurav Mehta, a Delhi-based entrepreneur, to co-create a market-based solution to the “last mile challenge”, a major barrier to the viability of social enterprises and businesses who seek to serve India’s 700 million strong rural population.

Business Model

     
  Together we created Dharma Life – an early-stage social enterprise in India that trains and mentors young people in rural villages to become social entrepreneurs who sell a range of products and services that benefit the wider community.  
     

Dharma Life works with manufacturers, state-level distributors and local retailers to build a sustainable value chain to make affordable social-impact products available to their network of rural entrepreneurs. They support this network by providing business training and sales tools to help young business people succeed, and regional marketing campaigns to demonstrate the economic and social value that these new products deliver.  Due to Dharma Life's extensive reach and their deep understanding of rural India, they offer and conduct marketing and research for external organisations.

Dharma Life products fall into two main categories:

             
 

Products that improve health

  • clean cooking solutions
  • solar lights
  • water purifiers
  • nutritional drinks
  • female sanitation products
     

Products that enhance livelihoods

  • mobile phones
  • sewing machines
  • bicycles
  • refrigerators
  • kitchen appliances and cookware
 

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