The journey for Mobile Harvest started sometime in 2008 when Sachin, during his masters degree, started thinking about building a text input free contact book for people who currently use their phones along with a diary full of phone numbers that they want to dial. His insight came from observing people back home who were using mobile phones like they had been using their fixed line phones for decades – not storing phone numbers in the phone but carrying around a phone book in their pocket to call people.
After a lot of research and brainstorming, he came out with a paper titled “Mobile Phone contact book, the social approach!” which got the best poster award in NordSec conference, 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Although, that idea did not see light of the day then, it always remained in the back of his mind to build something which would democratise technology.
Back in India, Sachin started talking to like minded people to figure out what will be the best possible tool which will help bring the power of technology to rural India. With a clear goal, he got talking to people and very soon, Team Mobile Harvest was in place. After deliberations, what emerged was to develop a social media platform for the multitude of people across the world that would much rather speak, than type. And the natural device that we speak into is our mobile phone. Hence the platform should be based on our mobile phones.
With just an idea in mind, the team got down to task. After numerous discussions over coffee, hot chocolate and drinks, it was decided that we are far too removed from the Indian heartland - rural India, who will be the first users and evangelists of this application. It was decided that our team takes a field trip to rural Andhra Pradesh to figure out what kind of a solution will address the real needs of our target audience.
The team took a road trip of over 2,000 kilometres within rural Andhra Pradesh and met various stakeholders including farmers, rural entrepreneurs, bureaucrats implementing various government schemes, NGO workers and many others. Two of the key stakeholders who made this trip successful were Mr D.V. Rayudu, director of Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture (CMSA) and Brig. P Ganesham of Honey Bee Network, National Innovation Foundation who generously let us into the communities managed by them.
During the meetings on this trip, we got deep insights into how technology would meet the needs of the people there. With these insights, the team came back to Delhi and got working on the first prototype of the platform. A month later, with a working prototype, the team returned to Andhra Pradesh, to the same set of people. The app was demonstrated with great success and appreciation from all stakeholders. The team returned to Delhi to build a more robust platform, after having received the buy in of these communities for a pilot launch of the platform.
This entire journey was a captured on a film shot by TVE. This film is one of the six projects selected across the world (and the only one from India) to be aired in the Rio summit and BBC.