Around the world, gender inequality limits women-owned businesses to launch, grow, and thrive. To address the unique challenges women entrepreneurs face, Mastercard has launched Project Kirana in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the White House's Women's Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP).
Earlier this year, the firm has committed $250 million to support SMEs globally. Of these, Mastercard will invest $33 million in Indian SMEs over the next five years, majority of which will go towards empowering women entrepreneurs, says Porush Singh, Division President, South Asia, Mastercard.
"Equality and inclusion are important not only because it is the right thing to do but it makes good business sense," he says.
Project Kirana will focus only on women-led stores. "The reason we decided to focus specifically on women in this project is because we see that there is insufficient support that is tailored for them. Given the unique circumstances women entrepreneurs in India, we thought, something that was dedicated to them will be particularly important....so this initiative was dedicated to call out the fact that we need to see more around women entrepreneurship but it is not at the exclusion of supporting small businesses across the nation," says Alison Eskesen, Vice President, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.
The program will focus on building financial and digital literacy skills on topics such as banking, digital payments, saving, credit and insurance; improving basic business management skills including inventory management, accounting, budget management and customer loyalty; and addressing cultural and other barriers to women becoming successful kirana entrepreneurs; including outreach to men, family members, and the community.
The two-year program will be implemented by DAI and ACCESS Development Services. The first phase of the programmes plans to cover 3000 women in three cities of Uttar Pradesh, including Lucknow, Kanpur and Varanasi. "This is a pilot that will then be scaled up across the nation," says Singh.
"Starting with three cities will allow us to test our approach, test our learnings and develop a roadmap for expansion that is built on real results which will enable us to quickly move out to additional states and cities because we will know exactly what works," says Eskesen.