For many people in rural India, a common way to make migration decisions is to trust the opinion of a bandhu (Hindi for friend/brother/relative) who is living in an urban area and can offer them access to a job or an initial place of stay. The other dominant mode is to trust the verbal promises of a labor contractor (job broker) who offers low/moderate wage labor jobs, with an assurance of providing or finding housing. While the system has long functioned like this, and has benefited these labor contractors, it clearly has not been fair to the vast majority – the seasonal migrant workers.
Even if a migrant is able to secure stable employment, dignified affordable housing in urban areas is hard to find and, if found, it is hard to get long-term security of tenure. In this market of informal real estate, they must go through labor contractors who also face difficulty procuring the right workers at the right time. Furthermore, urban employers constantly struggle to find and retain appropriately skilled blue-collar workers and are also largely reliant on these labor contractors.
The entire process of choosing to migrate is full of blind turns, with no single entity, not even the contractors, having perspective on the entire chain. One wrong step for a low-wage worker can have serious lifelong consequences.
Our mobile phone platform, Bandhu, minimizes these information asymmetries so that low-income migrants can make migration decisions with assurance. It does so by creating matches between employers looking for low/moderate skill workers, potential migrants/workers, and owners/occupants offering informal affordable housing on rent. It also shifts the contractor's private incentives in a way that benefits the entire system. By providing the potential migrants with competing offers of bundled employment and housing, for similar wage differentials, the Bandhu platform can minimize risks for the worker while still leaving the final choice up to him or her.