By: NS Ramnath

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Image by Justinvijesh via Wikimedia

For years, the fabrication cluster that had grown around the Trichy unit of the public sector behemoth Bharat Heavy Electricals had been following the same business model. Bhel was the main customer, or the only customer for most of the small businesses. Bhel was set up by the government in the sixties to help boost the country’s power generation capacities; and its Trichy unit specialised in high pressure boilers. It did what a typical large public sector organisation did during those times — it established a township for its employees at the outskirts of the town. It handheld its suppliers through the production process. It gave them the drawings, sourced raw materials, arranged for the transport, set the standards on how efficiently they have to use the materials, ceiling on wastage, etc. Its welding research institute conducts regular training to strengthen their skill base. The deal was simple. …


Saving for kids education or business expansion

By: Bhumi Sinha & Valerie Mendonca

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Image by Johnny110 on ShutterStock

I walk by a noisy, narrow street in Lucknow where the size of the shops compliment the space; shops that were built here years ago, some of them during colonial times. The area is called Chowk — a strategic intersection in a busy market area where one can find a variety of wholesale shops selling clothes and fabric embroidered in the chikan[1] style. Amidst these shops boasting of Lucknow’s characteristic chikan embroidery is one, stuffed with shoes and plastic items. …


By: Shruti Sheopurkar & Nalini Srinivasan

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Image by Antara Sarkar

The jury is still out on factors behind a preference for self employment and entrepreneurship. For the rural poor, entrepreneurship is devoid of the glamour of valuations and venture capitalists, and more of a mechanism: a choice to do what they love while contributing to their family’s income. In this month’s article, we dive deep into our conversation with 2 rural women entrepreneurs who have created jobs for hundreds of women artisans. We also revisit studies on rural women entrepreneurs in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu to corroborate the qualitative and anecdotal evidence from our in-depth interviews with Pabiben and Rajiben.

Here are our…


By: Liju George, Rohitkumar Pillai, Dr. Gayathri Aaditya, and Dr. Pramod Khadilkar

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Rural women remain ‘formally’ ignored and irrelevant in the agrarian economy. On an average, they have lower levels of literacy, education, and land (assets) holding sizes than rural men. Their freedom within households and communities is limited too. While at the same time, women are more responsible for managing the household, raising the children, contributing to the rural economy (though their contribution often goes unnoticed). However, women’s lack of access to credit, the tools to run an agriculture season (supplies and equipment), and markets, hinder their productivity and potential: a potential that financial institutions can tap. The SHG (Self Help Groups) and Co-operative movement has taken an immense step in improving credit access to women. Interestingly the SHGs have been able to perform without seeking collateral or guarantees. …


Savings for business expansion

By: Nipen Dutta & Valerie Mendonca

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‘He’s my keeper…my friend…my protector. He is my Lord — Shiva’. Veena’s eyes glistened as she gestured towards the picturesque temple in the backdrop with folded hands. She is a woman of faith; her attachment and devotion to Bholenath easily palpable. Veena, 45, sells worship material from a small makeshift stall in front of the picturesque 60-year-old temple at Pulibor. The temple is located besides the busy National Highway-37 in the western part of the city of Jorhat in Assam. …


By: Joel John & Moses Sam Paul

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Image by thodonal88 on ShutterStock

As we continue our primary research by interviewing workers of the digital platforms to understand the impact of data locked within big ‘gig economy’ platforms (lesser bargaining power, inability to access financial services, upward mobility bottlenecks etc) it’s important to understand the other side of the coin, the State. In this blog we’ll have a quick look at European Union’s (EU), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), India’s Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB) — from a data ownership and portability perspective and what an ideal solution platform might look like.

PDBP vs. GDPR (Data Ownership & Portability POV)

Data is broadly defined as the information in digital form that can be transmitted or processed, by the Webster’s dictionary. Data can be broadly classified as personal and non-personal data. The concept of Personal Data is at the heart of data protection regulations like the EU’s GDPR & India’s PDPB, 2019. …


By: Sabina Yasmin & Vinith Kurian

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Image by Oleh_Slobodeniuk on iStock

In the previous blog of this series, we discussed the potential use case for introducing meso-level insurance in agriculture with Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) as risk aggregators and policy holders. Through insights from our ongoing research, we identify that there are several supply and demand-side difficulties in creating a vibrant and sustainable market for a new insurance product in the long run. In this blog, we highlight three such potential barriers that a meso-level agricultural insurance product must overcome through both, better product design and a stronger value proposition for its intended beneficiaries:

  1. First, the quality of protection for last-mile beneficiaries obtained from any index-based insurance product is difficult to discern. While index insurance is often promoted as an affordable alternative to conventional insurance in developing countries, its value for farmers in terms of design(covering appropriate activities and appropriate risks), distribution (providing adequate information on product details and features) and delivery (through adequate monetary coverage and reaching the most marginalised sections) is rarely assessed. This lack of a strong value proposition discourages groups of smallholder farmers from subscribing to insurance products. This also has a bearing on the incentive for private insurance providers to invest in a new insurance product. Moreover, the systemic component of agricultural risks can generate major losses in the portfolio of agricultural insurers.Though public intervention is justified because no private reinsurer or pool of reinsurers has the capacity to cover such a large liability when the risks, even though small, may be difficult to diversify — it becomes important to actively encourage private insurers to supply insurance in this sector. To combat this issue, insurance regulators, IRDA in the case of India, will have an important role to play in ensuring that minimum product standards are in place and to ensure that these are enforced. …


By: NS Ramnath

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Image by Christopher Burns on Unsplash

Here’s a story set in the early 2000s, shared by a retired senior manager of a small business in Coimbatore.

The company he worked for bagged its first export order from a manufacturer in South East Asia. Towards the end of the first year, a team from the customer’s company visited them. They expressed their satisfaction and politely demanded that they cut their price by 10%. The company agreed, taking it as a challenge. They had to take a hit in their margins, but eventually they found ways to cut costs.

Next year, their customers came up with the same demand — a 10% cut in price. Orders were going up, and his company couldn’t say no. But this time cutting costs turned out to be difficult. It was already being run efficiently, and over the previous year they had cut costs wherever they could. However, in the second year, they pushed harder and somehow managed. …


Advancing towards fulfilling dreams

By: Bhumi Sinha & Valerie Mendonca

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Image by Omar Shamsuddin on iStock

I am taking a walk outside the peripheral walls of Janeshwar Mishra Park in Lucknow city when I see Pathik. The sky is overcast with rain clouds and there is a gentle breeze. ‘Chote-bade sab le jaate hain. Yeh gudda kisse pasand nahi aayega?’ (Kids and adults both buy these. Who does not like these teddies?) I smile at Pathik as he hands me a dreamy-eyed stuffed teddy bear from the back of a van which is parked at the side of the footpath. I can see Pathik has displayed the stuffed toys on the iron railing fixture on the park’s wall. …


By: Shruti Sheopurkar & Nalini Srinivasan

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Image by Kaarigar Clinic

The handicrafts sector is the second largest employment generator in India, providing employment to more than 7.3 million people. According to the national census of handicrafts, the Indian handicrafts industry is a billion dollar industry (worldwide) and contributes to 2% of the global market. According to the UN, over the past 30 years, the number of Indian artisans has decreased by 30%.

Many such crafts are the sole domain of the women in the household — providing them social and financial independence without having to leave their homes. While many have adopted modern techniques most of the traditional clusters are witnessing gradual decay and decline due to many reasons. The biggest factor for the decay of traditional clusters is the lack of product orientation to market demand and their inability to understand and link with markets. …

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Bharat Inclusion Initiative

We aim to build knowledge, foster innovation & entrepreneurial activity towards improving financial inclusion and livelihood for the poor.

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