Mastercard’s Porush Singh: Project Kirana to empower women-led shops, boost access to financial services

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November 19, 2020 6:15 PM

Ease of Doing Business for MSMEs: Singh said that the common thread that restrains progress for female business owners around the world is the perception of gender bias while their contribution in running businesses is dismissed as just “help”.

The credit gap for MSMEs stood at Rs 16 lakh crore out of which the retail sector accounted for 30 per cent, according to the IFC Intellecap report 2018. (Photo source: Bloomberg)

Ease of Doing Business for MSMEs: The problem of gender inequality globally, which has perhaps limited women entrepreneurs to launch and grow their businesses, has brought Mastercard and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) together to support such women in India. The two have partnered under The White House-led Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) initiative to launch Project Kirana. The project intends to build financial and digital literacy skills such as banking, digital payments, credit, insurance, etc along with improving basic business management skills such as inventory management, accounting, customer loyalty, and more among women entrepreneurs owning kirana shops. “It is aimed at bringing more women into the formal economy, increasing their access to financial services and empowering women-led kirana shops,” Porush Singh, Division President, South Asia, Mastercard told Financial Express Online.

The two-year programme will begin with implementation in select cities of Uttar Pradesh including Varanasi, Kanpur, and Lucknow. Apart from improving the different skills required to run a business successfully, the programme would also look at addressing the cultural and other barriers faced by women towards kirana entrepreneurs. This includes outreach to men, family members, and the community. The USAID is the US government agency that works towards fighting poverty globally while the W-GDP initiative was established in February 2019 that seeks to connect with 50 million women globally in the developing world by 2025 by “focusing on three pillars – women prospering in the workforce, women succeeding as entrepreneurs and women enabled in the economy.” In its first year, W-GDP programmes had reached 12 million women in the world.

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Singh said that the common thread that restrains progress for female business owners around the world is the perception of gender bias while their contribution in running businesses is dismissed as just “help”. According to a study by the International Monetary Fund, if India increased its women labor force participation to match that of men, it could increase GDP by 27 per cent. While women in India represent 49 per cent of the population but they contribute only 18 per cent to its economic output, about half the global average. “Therefore, a major shift in mindsets along with education and training is needed to create suitable conditions that not only encourage women entrepreneurship but also provide women with greater access to financial services and improve their business acumen,” he added.

“This partnership between USAID and Mastercard is a great example of the U.S. Government’s commitment to collaborating with the private sector in achieving sustainable development outcomes, such as the global women’s economic empowerment,” said Karen Klimowski, Acting USAID/India Mission Director in a statement. Mastercard had recently announced a Rs 250 crores commitment to help Indian small businesses recover from the pandemic impact. The company enables small merchants and kirana stores with access to credit and knowledge to drive operational efficiency in businesses among other initiatives.

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