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Mastercard and USAID partner to launch ‘Project Kirana’ for women entrepreneurs

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NEW DELHI: To enable women entrepreneurs to launch, grow and thrive, Mastercard and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced their partnership on Thursday to launch Project Kirana.

A two year programme, the project will first be rolled out in select cities of Uttar Pradesh – Lucknow, Kanpur and Varanasi. It will work to increase revenue streams, expand financial inclusion and digital payments adoption of kirana shops that are owned or operated by women. “The focus will specifically be on building financial and literacy skills and the topics will include banking, digital payments, savings and credit as well as insurance. We will also improve business management skills that are critical to kirana shops to improve their profitability,” Alison Eskesen, Vice President, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth said.

The programme will be implemented by DAI Digital Frontiers and ACCESS Development Services. It will also include outreach to men and families in order to derive meaningful impact and reach.

Speaking on why Uttar Pradesh was chosen to launch this programme, Radhika Agashe, Senior Vice President, ACCESS Development Services said that the state presents opportunities and challenges aplenty. “UP is one of the most populous states of India. It also has the largest number of people engaged in the informal sector. Besides this, it has the largest number of MSMEs at 14%. The state has 10.3% of the total women employed in MSMEs which is also one of the largest after West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. Yet, within the state, not even 10% of the MSMEs are women-led. So there is a lot of scope to push the number up in the state,” she added.

The programme aims to build financial and digital literacy skills; improve basic business management skills including inventory management, accounting, budget management and customer loyalty; addressing cultural and other barriers to women becoming successful kirana entrepreneurs; including outreach to men, family members, and the community.

Highlighting the significance of getting more women in business, Porush Singh, Division President, South Asia, Mastercard said that various studies have shown how a country’s GDP can grow between 12-25% over the next 5 yrs by bringing more women in. “Women owned businesses in India, especially small businesses have tremendous untapped potential that can transform economies. Yet, India is one of the countries with the highest gender gap in the world. Project Kirana is strategically designed to support women with a suite of skills and knowledge to increase their access to financial services and ultimately bring them into the formal economy,” he stated. Singh added that equality and inclusion is important also because it makes good business sense for everyone who operates in the country.

In July, Mastercard had announced a commitment of Rs 250 crores to help reboot Indian SMEs and enable business recovery amid the Covid-19 outbreak. As part of the commitment, the company has launched a host of initiatives in India to help small businesses go online by growing digital payments awareness, enabling small merchants with access to credit and empowering women entrepreneurs to hone their business acumen.