Airtel Payments Bank, in collaboration with Mastercard and Frontier Markets, has introduced the She Leads Bharat: Udyam program to support women-owned businesses in India. This initiative aims to assist 100,000 small women-owned enterprises, with a particular focus on those located in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. These businesses will have the opportunity to enhance their knowledge and earnings through the utilization of the ‘Meri Saheli Platform.’ She Leads Bharat: Udyam represents a pioneering effort that brings together private sector entities, social enterprises, and philanthropic organizations in the banking, financial services, and insurance sector. This initiative is designed to showcase a digital-centric approach that empowers women-owned small businesses to augment their incomes.

As per a report in Mint, around 10,000 women beneficiaries from this program will have the opportunity to expand their businesses by becoming Business Correspondents (BCs) for Airtel Payments Bank, thereby accessing additional sources of income.

The funding for this initiative will be provided by the Mastercard Impact Fund, and Mastercard will leverage the catalytic capital and global knowledge of its Center for Inclusive Growth to provide women-owned small businesses with access to tools, resources, and networks to support their growth.

Anubrata Biswas, the Managing Director and CEO of Airtel Payments Bank, expressed their commitment to empower women in rural India to pursue entrepreneurial ventures. They have partnered with Frontier Markets and Mastercard for the She Leads Bharat: Udyam initiative. This collaboration includes welcoming these women as Business Correspondents (BCs), who will join the existing network of 50,000 women BCs. These women BCs play a crucial role in extending banking and financial services to underserved rural areas in the country. Biswas looks forward to the journey of building a financially inclusive economy together with these partners.

According to the report, despite the fact that more than 20% of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are owned and operated by women, they receive only 5% of the total financing offered by public sector banks. Experts also point out that women in India often have limited access to digital resources and receive inadequate training to grow their businesses.

Providing the right support to women entrepreneurs can lead to positive outcomes, including increased credit repayment rates, greater female employment, and the sharing of enhanced income with their families and communities. Consequently, women play a pivotal role in both economic and community development.

Ari Sarker, President of Asia Pacific at Mastercard, emphasized the growing presence of women entrepreneurs in India’s workforce, highlighting that when these business owners have access to credit and digital tools, they can expand their operations and bolster their resilience. This, in turn, benefits their families, employees, and the communities they serve, aligning with the principles of inclusive growth.

Ajaita Shah, the Founder and CEO of Frontier Markets, highlighted their technology platform’s focus on harnessing the economic potential of women as key drivers of commerce in rural India. She noted that this partnership further empowers and enables social enterprises like Frontier Markets to pursue their objectives on a larger scale.

The collaboration partners aim to use ‘She Leads Bharat: Udyam’ to enhance the accessibility of financial services and establish a novel approach for serving rural markets. Their goal is to provide tailored support to women-owned small businesses, recognizing the unique challenges they face.

In India, women-owned micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) make up 20% of the total MSMEs, yet they only receive 5% of the financing provided by public-sector banks. These businesses often lack digitalization and access to adequate training for business development.

Nevertheless, with proper support, women entrepreneurs are more inclined to hire other women, meet credit repayment obligations, and share increased income with their families and communities. This underscores their critical role as catalysts for promoting inclusive economic growth.

In summary, the She Leads Bharat: Udyam initiative by Airtel Payments Bank, in partnership with Mastercard and Frontier Markets, is a significant step toward empowering women-owned businesses in India. By providing tailored support, financial services, and digital tools, the program aims to unlock the potential of women entrepreneurs, particularly in rural areas. When women receive the right support, they not only grow their businesses but also contribute to inclusive economic growth. This initiative serves as a shining example of collaboration between the private sector and social enterprises to create opportunities for women in business, emphasizing the importance of financial inclusion and empowerment for a more equitable and prosperous future.

(Source – ETTelecome, The Hindu Business Line and Other Genuine Internet Sites)

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