In Maharashtra, Zero Miles is building multi-utility drinking water centres to bring people together for community development.
“If you are in a Jungle, what is the best place to see all the animals? Of course, waterhole! Why? Because drinking water attracts everybody to itself. Using this natural phenomenon, we wish to connect rural India to the mainstream,” says Manas Deshmukh, founder of Zero Miles.
The concept behind Zero Miles is simple. The organisation’s aim is to help rural entrepreneurs set up clean drinking water centres in villages.
Called Zero Miles centres, these centres won’t simply sell water, but will be multi-utility centres infused with IT infrastructure, where the villagers will be able to avail different services like online recharge, bill payment and ticket reservation.
In addition to this, the Zero Miles centres also aim to educate villagers in different aspects like farming, agriculture & basic science. Each centre would have a computer and a television set that’d play different informative and educational videos through the day for the visitors’ benefit. The ZeroMiles App allows visitors to access the content without internet, through their smart phones or through the tablet provided by ZeroMiles.
On the advice of the renowned scientist Dr Vijay Bhatkar, the project was piloted in October 2014 in the Muramba village in the Akola district of Maharashtra.
Ranveer Aqua, a Zero Miles franchise in a nearby village Mana, is run by Satish Deshmukh. Satish, who had always aspired to set up a business in his village, saw his dream come true with this centre. He has also started different schemes and discount offers in his shop to end discrimination against girl children. He offers drinking water for free for a whole month to a family in which a girl child is born. To those who undergo vasectomy after having one or two girls, Satish’s centre promises free water for up to two years!
“I feel like it’s my duty. Today, I have a successful business in the village and it’s only because of the villagers. I have earned their respect and they look up to me. So, I should do everything I can to improve my village,” says Satish.
The Zero Miles centre in Akola has been a success and has invited a lot of requests from rural youths from nearby villages who wish to set up such centres.
“We are very happy that the request is coming from people. That’s how we mean for this initiative to grow. We want to encourage rural entrepreneurs to take up this business in their own village and contribute to the overall development. Our pilot project has proved that this can be a financially viable venture for entrepreneurs,” says Manas.
Zero Miles is currently in the process of setting up three more centres in the villages of Markal and Kharabwadi near Pune, and Nutandih near Jamshedpur.
A graduate of National Institute of Technology, Jalandhar, Manas worked in oil exploration for over five years. During his career, he travelled to various locations in India as well as abroad. During his travel, he realised that technology would make life easier for villagers. The idea of social entrepreneurship piqued his interest and he decided to quit his job.
After quitting his job in 2013, Manas travelled to different villages and interacted with many people from across different fields as a part of research. An avid traveller and a nature lover, he came up with the idea of Zero Miles during one of his treks in the jungle. He decided to replicate the water hole in villages to bring villagers together.
“It really worked! The water hole that we have created in Muramba is receiving a lot of attention and we have seen children, women as well as men visiting the centre regularly,” he says, smiling.