From World Bank to Rural India-An inspiring journey of a woman

Many Indian students opt to study in foreign countries so that they can get hold of many prestigious degrees from classy educational institutions. Their future guarantees them a high paying job and a wealthy lifestyle. But there are a handful of students, who even with degrees from such universities, decline the job offers showered on them and return back to their home land to build their own start-ups with an aim that is the betterment of their people and country.

One such relentless, patriotic Indian is Prerana Mukharya. Her story began at the far off lands where she got her post graduate degree in Economics at The Boston University. With a flair for academic research related to the socio-economic grounds, Prerana worked as a research assistant at Harvard and MIT and later returned to India and did a project on education in rural areas as a part of World Bank study and took up the post of a researcher at the Center for Policy Research.

It was during this time, Prerana had to indulge in a lot of field work to collect authentic data for her research. She soon realized that in a developing country like India, there is a huge gap to be filled between research and data as the latter is eminently lagging in the rural parts of the country. Prerana was aware that in order to carry out primary research on any field, the availability of authentic, quality data was of high priority. After all, a true researcher cannot depend solely on the data available online as they could be fraudulent, outdated or missing variables.

This realization was the first step to Prerana’s startup journey in the area of field research and survey. The 20-something academic researcher, swam against the tides single-handedly to start off her venture, by conducting researches and surveys in the streets of Delhi.

Outline India’s inception
Outline India, Prerana’s brain-child was started in July 2012. It basically provides solutions for executing field surveys across India. This start-up conducts authentic field research for universities, companies and public sectors. Since its inception, Prerana, along with her solid team members; Kaushik Sarkar, Jasdeep Mandia and Sanjay Joshi have brought deep domain knowledge to their company by successfully conducting over 32,000 surveys in six cities, including contracts with state governments. Outline India covers vast areas of research such as Health, Manufacturing, Energy and Chemicals, Education, Finance, Environment, Labor Market, Infrastructure, and Governance for conducting surveys.

Prerana began Outline India by keeping an age old saying as its basic foundation: “In God we trust, for everything else – We Need Data! “. Thus the main focus of Outline India is data collection to carry out primary research. The start-up provides special training for the surveyors in order to leverage high quality data deliverance. It provides a pilot program which is necessary to understand the objectives of research and methodologies and provide timely response to the researcher. In order to maintain the authenticity of the data, the start-up keeps track of each of its surveyors through GPS tracking to confirm their field survey.

Outline India idealizes in providing data to the users which is not only reliable but also non-boring in nature. Thus they are diversifying the vast dry data and providing them to the public through various forms which includes Infographics where vast, confusing data is condensed and visualized through interesting models, simple graphs to provide survey timeline at a glance and catchy one-liners that can be understood easily by people of all ages from both technical and non-technical background.

Future Challenges
Although Prerana has a lot of encouragement in terms of students from abroad showing interest to carry out their summer internships with Outline India, starting a company from scratch was indeed a difficult path to take. “Initially I hoped to get some funding but since ours is an organization on socio-economic sector it was not very appealing to a run-of-the-mill VC as compared to a tech start-up”, said Prerana who is believed to have been the sole investor during the initial days of the start-up.

The start-up is indeed headed for lot more success in the future. But challenges need to be considered. Since it’s a labor intensive sector, the company needs to set up a strong foundation in terms of hiring and provide them proper incentives to carry out the survey work. Thus, capital investment in the future is indeed necessary. So far, the start-up is carrying out research survey in a very traditional format. In order to speed up the process, it needs to pitch in for technology for future endeavors. And even with a good value proposition in the current market, Outline India will need to build up strategic partnerships which will help take the business forward.

As compiled by Life Beyond Numbers, this post showcases an inspiring startup journey of a woman entrepreneur with a unique focus on improvising data availability in order to make primary research in various fields more accurate.

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