Acumen has invested in Gram Vaani — a community-led, hyperlocal, and two-way participatory mobile platform that amplifies the voices of underserved populations in India.
The Challenge: Information Inequality is Holding Back Marginalized Communities
Ensuring access to information is essential for citizen engagement, empowerment, and holding those in power accountable. While the internet and smartphones have increased information availability, underserved communities still struggle to access crucial information on government welfare, health, agriculture, child and women development, workforce, and labor rights. This is primarily due to low awareness, limited relevant content, and non-inclusive communication channels.
The Innovation: A Participatory Communication Platform Led By and For Local Communities
Gram Vaani aims to tackle the issue of information inequality by employing a hybrid model that combines a technical platform with offline community engagement and locally relevant content in vernacular languages. The platform prioritizes community-driven content creation, fostering a sense of empowerment among its users. With successful implementation in 25+ districts and support for 8 languages, Gram Vaani has established a trusted platform that has served over 3 million unique callers, providing them with accessible and timely information.
Gram Vaani believes that enhancing information access, particularly for marginalized communities, contributes to increased accountability and the development of an inclusive society. Investing in reducing information asymmetry can have far-reaching effects, such as improved governance, reduced corruption, diminished gender inequality, inclusive economic growth, and greater respect for human rights. Therefore, the benefits of increased awareness extend to society as a whole.
Why We Invested: Creating Equitable Access to Information and Empowering the Disenfranchised
“Building an empathetic state and society requires a communication infrastructure that supports feedback processes and ensures fair representation of diverse viewpoints,” said Vijay Sai Pratap, CEO and co-founder of Gram Vaani. “Gram Vaani’s theory of change is anchored around the role and power of ‘responsible conversations’ and its ability to drive demand, build agency, influence accountability, and empower communities. The stark reality however, is the dearth of such inclusive, safe, and responsible spaces that allow people to learn, reflect, express themselves and collectivize for positive change. Gram Vaani is in the business of enabling a social tech infrastructure, led by and for communities, powered by appropriate and innovative voice technology tools and participatory processes, to drive long term sustainable change. We are truly elated to have Acumen join us on this journey.”
“Acumen is excited to lead this round in Gram Vaani to support the organization’s vision of equitable access to information,” said Mahesh Yagnaraman, Acumen India Country Director. “We believe that the platform has the potential to empower the disenfranchised section of society to become ‘consumers’ rather than mere ‘beneficiaries.’ This investment is a vital component of Acumen India’s workforce development strategy as an ecosystem enabler. We wish the leadership all the best in their efforts to bring positive change in the lives of communities whose voices are often unheard.”