Number Cruncher

Prerna Mukharya's company is gathering primary data to boost social sector development and building a tech platform to measure NGO impact

Prerna Mukharya, Founder, Outline India and Track Your Metrics  Photograph by Shekhar Ghosh Prerna Mukharya, Founder, Outline India and Track Your Metrics Photograph by Shekhar Ghosh

Every number tells a story, and researchers, policymakers and enablers must understand it to jump-start the social development sector. Prerna Mukharya, an MA in Economics from Boston University, is a firm believer in that vision.

So, she took a leap of faith seven years ago and set up Outline India (OI), a for-profit social data enterprise. Think of it as a Big Data firm with three big differences. First, Mukharya and her team conduct on-field surveys across Indian hinterland to gather primary data. "This is vast, considering 66 per cent people live in rural India and very little data is available regarding their quality of life, needs and expectations," she says. So, OI gathers loads of micro datasets covering key segments such as health, education, water, gender, sanitation and even agriculture. "We do a lot more, but health and education are the pillars of policymaking," she says. Next, OI analyses the data and shares it with ministries, think tanks, NGOs, CSR clients, Ivy League universities - every entity that has the power to ensure greater social good. The company has worked across 26 states and UTs, 8,000-plus villages and held five million interactions to build its social sector database.

All these are big achievements for a company that runs out of a rented place in Gurgaon and is bootstrapped. The founder put in Rs 2 lakh and initially worked with interns and part-timers (at present, OI is a 22-member team with a field staff varying between 20-80).

Mukharya is now developing Track Your Metrics (TYM), a tech platform that will help NGOs measure the impact they are having and enable CSR bodies to track their fund spend at zero unit cost. "A lot of aid is coming to India and a lot of philanthropic work is going on. But again, we have a data black hole here," says Mukharya. She says TYM can automate survey formulation, but "the best part is it can connect donors with NGOs, making fundraising hassle-free".