GRINS: Bringing efficiency and community participation to community radio stations in India and South Africa

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GRINS: Bringing efficiency and community participation to community radio stations in India and South Africa

Organization type: 
for profit
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

GRINS provides technologies for content management and community participation in a simple package for community radio.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Community Radio (CR) stations cater to information needs of communities around them. The size of these communities vary between 30,000 and several hundred thousands. CR stations are often located in regions where main stream media does not serve the local needs, thus reaching the media under-privileged. Engaging community in content creation and decision making is a core philosophy for CR stations. Such community participation ensures that CR stations are aware of the needs of the people they serve. CR stations face several inefficiencies in their daily tasks of content management, content scheduling, and reporting. These are mainly due to lack of availability of a solution that combines all the stations' needs in to a single package. In addition, CR stations also face logistic and economic difficulties in engaging their listeners, especially given that they are geographically spread over hundreds of squares of kilometers. High penetration of mobile phones has helped increase this interaction, lack of appropriate tools has made it hard for stations to record conversations, put listeners live on air, or set up automated telephony systems.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

GRINS is the only radio automation system designed specifically to meet the needs of CR stations. It combines aspects of content management, content scheduling, and reporting in to a single, icons based interface enabling staff with very little technical expertise or educational background to operate the system. It seamlessly integrates telephony in to the same interface allowing station staff to receive calls, put calls live on air, and log caller name, location, etc, all at through just a few mouse clicks. GRINS allows automatic scheduling of broadcast audio so that CR station staff do not have to be physically present at the station to begin broadcasting. This is useful for stations that have limited human resources. Content management in GRINS is enabled through a hierarchical set of labels that allows extremely flexible organization of content. GRINS' content search system uses these labels combined with content creation time, broadcast history, and creator information to enable station staff to easily search through hundreds of thousands of audio programs. Telephony integration allows stations to receive calls from listeners and record them at high quality for later broadcast. It also enables a phone-in program through call screening and putting calls live on air. Finally, it allows listeners to reach the station during off office hours by means of an answering machine. The answering machine also acts as a "Phone Box" that enables running a "topic of the week" program where listeners are encouraged to call in and leave messages on a specific topic.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

1. Many CR stations are short of staff due to economic constrains in which they work. Often these stations need to start broadcasting very early in the morning. GRINS allow stations to schedule the broadcast to start automatically at a specified time. Using this feature stations need not come to the station early in the morning to begin broadcast. 2. CR stations often create a large amount of audio content on different topics and targeted towards various categories of listeners. Due to such large amount of content it becomes hard for stations to search for specific items. Begin able to categorize content in different ways and search them using different filters in GRINS makes it easy for stations to search specific programs. 3. GRINS makes it easy to generate reports of aired programs along with its audio to enable proper presentation to advertisers or donor agencies. 4. Using GRINS telephony stations can easily reach listeners/experts and record interviews without having to travel physically. This saves time and cost and is particularly useful in hilly regions where travelling in dark becomes hazardous. 5. GRINS telephony also allows stations to receive calls from listeners and put them live on air, thus enabling immediate community participation in immediately relevant programs. 6. GRINS answering machine system further enables community participation by allowing listeners to call in and leave messages for the station during off office hours. 7. GRINS answering machine can creatively be used to collect feedback on specific topics or to run quizzes.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

GRINS is a free software, with stations being charged only for installation, training and technical support. At this price point, only free radio automation systems compete with us. Airtime is one such tool. Airtime's playlist scheduling and remote management capabilities are far superior. However, its market is internet radio stations as against our market of community radio stations. MixTime, RadioDJ, and Broadcast Private edition are other tools that have more sophisticated content editing and broadcast management tools compared to GRINS. However, GRINS' content management, reporting, and telephony integration are more relevant to CR stations.
About You
Gram Vaani Community Media
About You
About Your Organization
Organization Name

Gram Vaani Community Media

Organization Country

, DL

Country where this project is creating social impact

, MP

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Scaling (the next step will be growing impact on a regional or even global scale)

How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Social Impact
FOUNDING STORY: We want to hear about your “Aha!” moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution’s potential to change the world.

The co-founder of Gram Vaani, Aaditeshwar Seth, started his journey to rural empowerment by trying to bring Internet to the rural regions of India during his PhD. Soon he realized that just availability of the Internet will not empower the rural regions. It will also need right content on the Internet, ability to create content easily, and literacy among the rural folk to create the right eco-system. While sustained technical efforts to address the former two, addressing illiteracy is a daunting task.

His realization coincided with the Government of India setting up a licensing procedure to enable non-profit organizations to start running CR stations. CR stations by nature do not require literacy. In addition, with right motivation, such stations can be crucial in providing locally relevant information to its listeners. He returned to India and brought four others together (including me), to work on enabling CR stations in India. GRINS is a result of this effort.

Specify both the depth and scale of your solution’s social impact to date

GRINS has been deployed at 15 CR stations across India. It will be deployed at 4 CR stations in South Africa by 15th September.

Being a tool for CR station staff it directly impacts their work flow and efficiency. CR stations have found playlist scheduling, generating reports, and handling telephone calls easy to do. Arti Jaiman, station manager at Gurgaon Ki Aawaz had this to say about GRINS:

"The GRINS content management and telephony system has allowed our community radio station, to seamlessly broadcast 22 hours a day, which includes daily live telephony sessions handled by community reporters. Despite none of our reporters having a technical background, they have been able to easily grasp the fundamentals of preparing playlists, scheduling live sessions, and managing rapid fire phone-in programs, because of the deceptively simple user interface of GRINS."

GRINS answering machine system was used by one CR station to collect information about children not attending school for various reasons. The station then aired the same information and encouraged the parents to send the children to school. The station was able to bring school drop outs to zero through this effort.

What is your projected impact within the next 1-5 years? Is your idea replicable? If so, how?

Within the next 3 years we intend to have a large scale presence in Africa and South America. We also intend to build teams of technical people to enable low cost installation and support in both these continents. We intend also to make GRINS open source to enable others to contribute in making GRINS more robust and relevant for CR stations.

Our continuous effort on GRINS also includes building SMS capabilities and advanced IVR capabilities to enable greater community engagement.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and mark growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Enable more community participation through GRINS than current state

Six-Month Tasks
Task 1

Integrate SMS capabilities in GRINS

Task 2

Build polling and SMS reminder tools in GRINS.

Task 3

Increase number of GRINS deployments to 30

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Make GRINS a viable choice for CR stations in Africa

12-Month Tasks
Task 1

Participate in relevant workshops and conferences to spread awareness about GRINS in Africa.

Task 2

Identify and build changes in GRINS specific to African CR stations.

Task 3

Build technical support team in Africa.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

1,001 - 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

Explain how your company, program, service or product is structured

Hybrid model

What barriers have hindered the success of your project to date? How do you plan to overcome these and other challenges as you grow your solution?

CR stations by nature have be monetarily constrained. This means that we can not expect windfall profits through sales and support. We have come to realize this and have revised the sustainability model of GRINS to no-profit-no-loss. This means that we will not seek to make profit out of it, but will make sure that costs incurred in spreading GRINS are covered through a variety of sources. These sources include installation, training, and support charges from CR stations, funding from projects that utilize CR stations, Government grants, and grants from CR bodies.

We already charge CR stations for installation, training, and support. We have also found one CR based project ready to support 10 GRINS installations from its funding. Thus, two sources have already been validated.

How do you see the information-technology and media sectors shifting over the next decade? How will your solution adapt to and/or drive that changing environment?

We expect significant growth of telephony in the coming years. This will increase coverage and reduce call costs. We will modify GRINS to handle several phone lines in parallel to take advantage of lower call costs and lower costs of multi-channel equipments.

We also expect media to become more localized and more interactive. CR stations are already pioneering this shift. With increased penetration of the Internet, CR stations will have their own websites. We will modify GRINS to enable seamless posting of audio content on their websites.

Failure is not always an option. If your solution fails to gain traction in the next two years, what other applications of the idea could you explore?

It is possible that we may not be able to find a sustainable way to support growth of GRINS using the sources outlined earlier. We have already experienced this to some extent in the Indian context. As a work around, we will then focus on selling telephony and SMS based solutions to media and non-profit organizations and funding GRINS movement from its profits. We have built expertise in telephony and SMS while developing GRINS and have already started building telephony based applications for non-profit and government bodies.

Expand on your selections, explaining how you will sustain funding

We are looking at collaborations with Commonwealth of Learning, Farm Radio International, and AMARC Africa to enable us to deploy GRINS at several stations in the African region. We expect these collaborations to sustain our efforts in Africa. We have already collaborated with Sesame Workshop India to deploy GRINS at 10 CR stations in India in December 2011.

In addition, we have already started building telephony applications for non-profit organizations and government bodies. Part of remunerations from sales of these applications will sustain our efforts in India.

Tell us about your partnerships
What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section?

We will need a team of 3 technical people who will take up the task of advertising, installing, and supporting GRINS. They will need to have basic aptitude for technology. We will train them on specifics of GRINS.

Changemakers is a collaborative and supportive space. Please specify any community resources you would need to grow and sustain your initiative. Select all that apply


Specify any resources you might offer to support other initiatives. Select all that apply

Research or information, Collaboration or networking.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren’t specified within the list

We will need monetary support beyond our current sources of funds to achieve our goals.

We are a team with research background and often conduct research in the effort we put. We will be more than happy to provide all the information we have gathered to any one interested. We have also built connections with NGOs in India and will be to connect people who wish to be connected with them.

Define your company, program, service or product in 1-2 short sentences

GRINS is an automation system designed specifically to meet the needs of community radio stations.