The Indian Iris, a unique startup that keeps an eye on govt schemeshttps://indianexpress.com/article/business/startups/the-indian-iris-startup-policy-research-govt-schemes-2785924/

The Indian Iris, a unique startup that keeps an eye on govt schemes

The idea to build a comprehensive platform of this scale first took root in 2014 when Sindhu, a IIIT Bangalore graduate, read about Narayan Singh Rao's work for the BJP during the Lok Sabha elections.

Indian Iris1
The idea to build a comprehensive platform of this scale first took root in 2014 when Sindhu, a IIIT Bangalore graduate, read about Narayan Singh Rao’s work for the BJP during the Lok Sabha elections. (Source: The Indian Iris)

The India Iris, a startup based in Noida, stands out from the other businesses located in its vicinity. Its oddity is not just down to its address, but also the kind of work they do.

Set amongst furniture houses and car service centres, Indian Iris functions from the third floor of a nondescript building. Their presence goes largely unnoticed among the hustle-bustle of this working class neighbourhood.

The steep, narrow flight of stairs that lead up to The Indian Iris takes one past other small offices running noiselessly behind closed doors. Once inside, it is hard not to notice their spartan work space. Few chairs, couple of computer screens and a tea kettle make up their inanimate workforce. The Iris team in Noida comprises of just three policy research analysts, besides the founders, but they power an entire site that provides exhaustive information on Central and state government initiatives, policies and schemes.

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The idea to build a comprehensive platform of this scale first took root in 2014 when Sindhu, a IIIT Bangalore graduate, read about Narayan Singh Rao’s work for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during the historic 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Rao, a member of the National IT Committee of BJYM, the youth wing of BJP, toured several states to conduct workshops and trained numerous volunteers to execute the party’s social media strategy.

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Team Hyd
The Indian Iris team in Hyderabad at the 2 KM ‘Walk for Accessible India’ event. (Source: The Indian Iris)

Rao’s story brought Sindhu and a couple of her friends to IIM-Ahmedabad — where Rao was pursuing a one year course — to explore the possibility of pooling in their resources and come up with something that could help the society. After a couple of meetings, the pair decided to launch a portal that would provide access to information about all the government-related schemes and policies under one single window.

This led to launch of The Indian Iris in 2015 with help from IIM-A’s Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) seed money. The premier management institute’s Maverick fellowship program, awarded to Rao, also provided some cushion for the Iris team.

The site’s target audience are mainly those from the semi-urban and rural areas, looking to setup Micro Small and Medium Enterprises. Their belief that “an opportunity unknown is equal to an opportunity lost” has pushed them to provide detailed information about government-sponsored schemes that would help rural entrepreneurs.

“Most governments fail to advertise their schemes properly and many people miss out on utilising them,” says Rao.

The site, which initially offered its content in English and Hindi, has now expanded to three more languages — Gujarati, Tamil and Telugu.

“We will be offering our content in all the major Indian languages soon,” he adds.

Currently the site has 1 lakh monthly page views and 45,000 active users. They have organically amassed over 20,000 fans on Facebook. They have even launched an Android app in reach out to its readers.

Their story on “how to start your own dairy business” saw hundreds write to them seeking help with the application process. The response was stupendous, but the kind of queries directed at them despite putting up a detailed break-up about the financial assistance offered by the Central government through National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NBARD) has given Iris the idea to expand their horizons.

The Indian Iris now aspires to tie-up with various state governments and act as a go-between where they wish to process applications from would-be benefactors and forward them to the respective ministries.

They have also done their bit to support the ‘Startup India Stand Up India’ by organising a Startup India Summit in Rao’s home district Udaipur. The Iris team traveled 500 km, covering 12 sub-districts of Udaipur in 3 days, as part of the summit’s bike yatra to engage with locals and spread awareness about self-employment related policies undertaken by the Centre and Rajasthan government. Iris has recently tied up with the Tata Group to tour villages and towns and promote government initiatives and schemes.

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The team had also released a detailed 49-page “report card” of one year of Modi government at the Centre. They have meticulously analysed the government’s flagship schemes such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Clean Ganga and Digital India, to name a few.