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From economic distress to stability: Laxmi’s inspiring journey

Untimely and sudden deaths can take a family that is struggling to move forward many steps backward. Some recover. Some do not.

It was a death that formed the background of Laxmi Kumari's struggle-to-success story. She had to shoulder the family's responsibility-as the eldest of the three remaining siblings- when she lost her elder brother in a road accident.

The village community in Ekta village of Bharatpur district in the Indian state of Rajasthan today lauds the grit, toil, and determination of Laxmi. She steered her family from economic distress to stability as she took on dual roles: An entrepreneur -a digital service provider- and a computer teacher in the village school.

Laxmi joined the BridgeIT program, a CSR initiative by TCS, after completing her Class-XII. She was imparted training in operating a computer, communication skills and how she could transfer this knowledge among aspiring learners in the community. Parallelly, she took out time to earn her graduate degree in Arts.

After she acquired the needed IT skills,  National Confederation of Dalit and Adivasi Organisation (NACDAOR) the NGO with whom TCS has partnered for the BridgeIT program, gave her the first push towards entrepreneurship. TCS, through the partner NGO, NACDAOR, provided her with two laptops to start her own business. "I opened a shop at home offering services like e-Mitra, online form filling for issuing fresh ration cards, Aadhar cards, voter ID cards, pension withdrawal and anything else that needed to be enabled digitally," recalls Laxmi.

Laxmi visited each of the 5,000 households in her village for word-of-mouth marketing her business. She even received customers from many neighboring villages. Her meager family monthly income of upto INR 3,500 shot up as the business flourished and she now earns in the band of INR 60,000 - 70,000 per month. She also trained her siblings and her parents to use the computer, photocopy machine etc to help manage the shop in her absence.

Laxmi initially had dreams of becoming a teacher, and undergo a formal course in teachers' training. This partly got fulfilled when she took up Computer Aided Learning (CAL) which is a component under BridgeIT programme and started teaching CAL in the government-sponsored school of her village. "I started teaching basic IT skills to students between classes one to eight. Initially, it was difficult as I had never taught using a laptop before. But I could soon overcome the challenges," the achiever in Laxmi said.

Owing to the progress she made in her business and the services which she offers through it, she is a well-recognized person now in her village and also a stakeholder in the local self-governance bodies of her village, providing solutions to the problems arising at the time of the pandemic. She helps the villagers with online documentation to avail various subsidies and welfare measures rolled out as Covid 19 relief. "I tried to ensure that everyone received the government supplies as per their entitlement," says Laxmi.

The village panchayat recognizes her work and encourages her to be a part of the meetings and help them with matters aligned to government policies and decision-making.

All those who did the handholding for the unassuming and shy Laxmi when she took her initial steps say, "She always gave us the feeling that still waters run deep..."