Meet this woman from Ahmedabad who is making women financially “Aatmanirbhar”
Maitry Shah, a professional wealth manager, founded LakshMe, a platform that imparts financial knowledge to working and non-working women.
Saturday March 25, 2023,
6 min Read
- LakshMe, founded by Maitry Shah, a wealth manager, is a platform that imparts financial knowledge to working and non-working women.
- The Buddy for Finance programme was started in March 2021 for urban women to get assistance in financial matters.
- It has helped over 1,100 urban women through its BFF programme.
- Shah plans to expand her roots to the rural women in and around Ahmedabad.
During a sales call with a client, Maitry Shah—a professional wealth manager at Prudent Group—found her competence unjustly questioned solely based on gender. It left her in great dismay—a feeling that persisted even after she continued with her life.
Shah recounts how a client repeatedly sought confirmation from her male manager after every statement she made during the call, leaving her frustrated and undervalued.
On paying close attention to all her sales calls after this incident, she found that women hardly participated in financial discussions.
She remembers many instances where, during a discussion, women often excused themselves to make tea or lemon juice instead of engaging. “Even if they used to sit on my persuasion, no one paid attention,” Shah recalls.
According to a 2019 Winvestor survey, only 12% of women said it is 100% their decision when they invest in market-based instruments (stocks, equity, MFs, etc.), compared to 31% of men.
Only 33% of women, compared to 64% of men made their investment decisions, while 13% of women were forced to make investment decisions due to their husband’s death or divorce.
All these instances triggered Shah to do something. In 2020, the 26-year-old started the platform, a CSR initiative by the Prudent Group.
The platform, which has helped over 15,000 urban women so far, works to impart financial knowledge to working and non-working women through its content and one-on-one sessions with financial buddies.
“We believe that a financially educated woman is a powerful ally. We want women to have agency over their lives by taking control over their finances,” Shah says.
The first steps
Shah grew up in a household where financial independence was highly valued. Her CA father would often discuss his salary and monetary matters with her, while her mother was an equal stakeholder in all the financial decisions taken at home.
“I think, from the time I developed any consciousness and understanding of how the world works, I have been comfortable with numbers, which eventually sparked a keen interest in financial studies,” she says.
After completing her BBA in Finance, Shah moved to New York to pursue a Master’s degree in Finance. As she delved deeper into the subject, she realised she wanted to use her expertise to serve society, leading to LakshMe’s creation.
For Shah, LakshMe is an opportunity to follow her passion while contributing to the greater good.
Initially, she focused on seminars, workshops, and creating content through newsletters to spread awareness and make women financially literate. Despite a year’s efforts, she realised she could not gauge the impact LakshMe made.
In March 2021, she started the Buddy for Finance programme for urban women. Under this, the platform provides women with a buddy who assists them in taxation, debt management, daily finances and goal planning, investments and insurance, and future wealth planning.
More than 60% of women seeking financial help through the BFF programme are interested in starting their businesses or have a specific goal they want to achieve.
Around 20% want to acquire basic financial knowledge and learn to budget effectively. Nearly 15% are looking for financial products that suit their needs, while 5% are Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) or Non-Resident External (NREs) seeking investment opportunities in India.
Although there is no specific demographic, fewer women aged 50 and above require financial assistance on the platform, Shah says.
So far, the platform has helped over 1,100 urban women through its BFF programme.
Each one-on-one session is followed up with additional sessions to track progress. Typically, three follow-up sessions are conducted to ensure the individual is on track to achieve their financial goals.
For women who are not clear with their goals, Shah helps them by first helping them understand the basics of financial management and setting and achieving their financial goals.
Although during the COVID-19 pandemic, Shah could not reach out to rural women, she managed to hold workshops and seminars in schools in some of the rural areas of Ahmedabad.
Working closely with the NGO Samvedhana, the team took summer classes to teach some basic financial concepts to students through fun activities. “Along the same lines, I plan to conduct interactive and gamified workshops to teach financial concepts to rural women in a fun way,” she says.
She also intends to conduct pilot surveys in villages to understand how the workshops are received and how they can be improved.
Shah is in talks with a few villages in and around Ahmedabad to understand the financial needs of the rural women while trying to set up one-on-one meetings with them.
The team has five experts, including Shah, who handles the financial management and goal planning segment. The team is divided on an expertise basis, from taxation and investing to debt management.
LakshMe has also started offering its services to other organisations’ employees.
This year, from January to March, LakshMe has reached out to over 430 urban women through the BFF programme.
Challenges and the road ahead
Shah’s journey has not been a bed of roses. Overcoming cultural barriers, developing relatable content, and establishing trust were key challenges she faced on her way.
She recollects trying to convince women that financial independence did not equate to disrespecting their husbands, fathers, or brothers.
“Overcoming this perception required sitting down with them and patiently explaining the concept in a way that resonated with them,” she recalls.
She further elucidates that promoting financial independence among women in rural areas requires patience, creativity, and a willingness to adapt to the audience’s needs. Shah believes that most urban women possess basic financial literacy. However, it is a rare sight in rural setups.
As such, Shah tries to develop different approaches and content relatable to urban and rural women.
“When women are capable of earning for themselves, there is no reason why we cannot manage our own money, and that is what we are helping women with through LakshMe,” she adds.
In the next five years, Shah aims to help spread financial awareness to 20 lakh women, with at least 20,000 women starting their investment journey.