Overcoming all hurdles
Untimely and sudden deaths can take a family that is struggling to move forward many steps backward. Lakshmi Kumari 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. Yet her perseverance has led to an inspiring struggle-to-success story.
The village community in Ekta village of Bharatpur district in the Indian state of Rajasthan today lauds Laxmi’s grit and toil. She steered her family from economic distress to stability as she took on dual roles: A digital entrepreneur and a computer teacher in the village school.
How BridgeIT makes a difference
Laxmi joined the BridgeIT program, a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative by TCS, after completing Class-XII. She was imparted training in communication skills, operating a computer, 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 essential IT skills, National Confederation of Dalit and Adivasi Organization (NACDAOR), TCS’ NGO partner for the BridgeIT program, gave her the first push towards entrepreneurship by providing 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 to market her business through word-of-mouth. She ended up receiving customers from many neighboring villages as well. Her meagre family monthly income of about INR 3,500 shot up as the business flourished; and she now earns around INR 60,000 - 70,000 per month. She also trained her siblings and 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 receiving proper training. This was fulfilled when she took up Computer Aided Learning (CAL), a component under BridgeIT program, and she then started teaching CAL in the government-sponsored school of her village. She teaches basic IT skills to students between classes one to eight and overcomes every challenge in her way as a teacher.
Going beyond learning
Owing to the progress she made in her business, the services which she offers through it, and her training in communication skills; she is now a well-recognized person in her village and a stakeholder in the village’s local self-governance bodies, providing solutions to the problems that arose at the time of the pandemic. She even helped 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 helped the unassuming and shy Laxmi when she took her initial steps say, "She always gave us the feeling that still waters run deep..."