Economically Empowering India

Inside Bill’s Brain is a Netflix series where Bill and Melinda Gates go about their efforts to eradicate polio in the world. If Africa and India are some of their focus areas, you might wonder what the rich (or smart) people in these countries are doing for their own people already.
In this article, I’m going to show how anyone with a smart phone can make a difference. Here we go:

Join hands in helping those in need.

The Problem:

According to this Wikipedia article, more than half of India’s population is in the middle class. This means that there’s a lot of scope for economic empowerment through proven means such as digitization and technology. 

Then there are those in the extreme poverty and Below Poverty Line sections of the society. While the existing measures from the government and other organisations ARE having an impact to bring more people out of poverty, this could be much faster, by contributions from the common man.

The Potential Solution:

As a digital marketer, I’ve seen businesses grow monthly, quarterly and yearly by simply appearing in front of their target audience. Apart from top-spending clients, I’ve also setup and managed campaigns for small businesses and first-time advertisers.

Why can’t these techniques be applied to the rest of the new businesses and individuals? If they don’t have (or don’t care about) a functional website, the least that can be done is to list themselves on the world’s largest directory – Google.

The two common ways of doing this for free is to list the place on Google Maps and also create a website in My Business. That’s a great start. Add some content and a few images – you’ll be surprised how fast the business grows.

Help your local store or small business advertise for free.

How Can You Contribute?

The next time you visit your local store or bakery, have a chat with the owner or staff and ask if they’re listed online. Explain the main benefit that they’ll receive more customers and footfall if they do that. Hopefully, this would help them grow the business and also employ more people.

Open the Google Maps app and zoom in to see if the place is listed. Two scenarios:
1) Not Listed: This is a great opportunity. Click on menu and choose “Add a Missing Place”. Fill as many details as you can, or at least the name of the shop. Approvals are almost immediate for government places like a RTO check post. Shops could take longer. When you receive an email saying the place has been added, you can upload images after that.
2) Listed: Okay, how does it look? Can the images be better or more details filled up accurately such as working hours, etc? Go ahead and add your own image and review of the place. If you’re a local guide, you can receive points for such contributions.
Does this listed place have a 360 image? If you don’t have a 360 degree camera, you can request a shoot from us, and we will do it for free.

That shop keeper or vegetable vendor will look at you with special respect from now on. You’ve done your bit to economically empower them and also gotten into a habit of mindfully looking at the Maps listing of the places you visit. Learn more on how Stree View imagery can enhance a Google My Business Listing: https://www.google.com/streetview/business/

What about Spam?

Local Guides also accumulate points for editing places and verifying facts. If a place no longer exists or the wrong images are online, it will get reported. You can report such things too so that you’ll save time for others – for instance, an ATM that has moved to a different road or shut down altogether.

Almost everyone checks Maps for navigation or just to see how the traffic looks like. During long-distance travel, a user can spot the nearest fuel stations, toll plazas, and refreshment centres. Information is being updated all the time.

Government Places:

Google Maps information is used in many places, including search results. Let’s say you add a post office or police station of a small town. When the name of the town is searched for, these places with images might appear in the top results.

Government places are often ignored by Local Guides because they tend to focus on popular areas like a shopping mall where their images would supposedly get more views. On the contrary, the mall already has thousands of photos and yours is going to get lost in it. Try a government hospital and watch how your views increase exponentially every week.

Initiatives in Education – Google.org

What does shooting a government building have to do with economically empowering the BPL folks?
– A child can see the images of a government school and get excited to go study, if she’s not enrolled already.
– A farmer can see if there are any new seeds in the horticulture office.
– Government hospitals would probably be more familiar and non-intimidating if the images are seen before hand.
– Farms, handloom producers and similar outlets are going to be shown in Maps, during navigation or searching about the place. This could potentially increase inquiries, without which they’ll be solely dependent on middlemen.
– Upon uploading more than 50 images in Google Street View app, the user can earn the Trusted Photographer badge, and earn money by offering the service to paying clients. This is another income stream for anyone with a smartphone (a 360 degree camera is not mandatory, but can speed up the workflow).

This idea of uploading images in Google Maps to empower small businesses is applicable in other countries too and not just India. Some awareness of this initiative could go a long way in making a meaningful contribution in this current generation of smartphones.

If you can think of a place that needs a Maps listing with 360 images, fill the form and we’ll do it for free. If you’d like to volunteer, let us know and we’ll ship you a 360 degree camera as soon as possible.