Mastercard and USAID partner to launch Project Kirana to strengthen women-owned businesses

Project Kirana is a two-year project that will focus on increasing revenue streams, expanding financial inclusion and improving digital payments adoption of kirana shops that are owned or operated by women.

American multinational company Mastercard and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have partnered under the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP) to launch Project Kirana to address the inequality due to the gender gap that limits women entrepreneurs to advance in their careers and thrive their businesses. 

The project will be implemented by DAI and ACCESS Development Services in select cities of Uttar Prades — including Lucknow, Kanpur, and Varanasi. The two-year project will focus on increasing revenue streams, expanding financial inclusion and improving digital payments adoption of kirana shops that are owned or operated by women. 

Project Kirana is an extension of Mastercard’s commitment to empower and enable entrepreneurs through a suite of commercial products, partnerships and philanthropy. Porush Singh, Division President, South Asia, Mastercard said, 

“Women-owned businesses in India, especially small businesses, have tremendous untapped potential that can transform economies. Yet, India has one of the highest gender gaps 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. Mastercard is excited to find the best partners for this programme to create a thriving ecosystem for women-led kirana businesses.”

The project aims to build financial and digital literacy skills on topics such as banking, digital payments, saving, credit, and insurance for women entrepreneurs, and improving their basic business management skills including inventory management, accounting, budget management, and customer loyalty. It also purposes on addressing cultural and other barriers to women becoming successful kirana entrepreneurs, including outreach to men, family members, and the community.

“Creating equal opportunities for women in business is not only a question of gender equality but also an economic priority. At Mastercard, we believe in levelling the playing field for women entrepreneurs. We work towards democratising access to financial and digital services, and establishing and broadening networks among small business owners. It becomes imperative to help women unlock their potential, strengthen their skills and enhance their participation in business,” said Alison Eskesen, Vice President, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth

By joining forces with USAID, Mastercard is determined to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem as well as support the aspirations of women entrepreneurs in India, she added. 

USAID has a global network of more than 186 gender advisors who work to accelerate the organisation’s gender work worldwide. As John Barsa, Acting Administrator of USAID, states, “Global prosperity will remain out of reach if we exclude half the population. At USAID, we believe investment in women is key to unlocking human potential on a transformational scale.”

In July 2020, Mastercard announced a commitment of Rs 250 crore ($33 million) to help reboot Indian SMEs and speed up their road to recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of the initiative, Mastercard aimed to help Indian SMBs strengthen their online and offline presence, make access to credit easier, and empower women entrepreneurs by strengthening their business acumen.

In an exclusive interaction in August this year, Vikas Varma, COO, South Asia, Mastercard told SMBStory that Mastercard is seeking to leverage its network, insights, technology, and partnerships to help Indian MSMEs quickly adapt to a new way of operating digitally. 

Edited by Kanishk Singh


Updates from around the world