DBS Foundation has partnered with Haqdarshak Empowerment Solutions (HESPL) to undertake a social protection and financial literacy programme aimed at marginalised citizens across India, including daily wage earners, domestic workers, farm workers, sanitation workers, micro-entrepreneurs. The programme will educate 2,00,000 beneficiaries (70% women) to build their digital and financial capacity to access relevant government entitlements and private financial services.
The programme is being implemented in 10 districts in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana, targeting some of the most vulnerable populations in these areas. The initiative’s ultimate aim is to establish a basic social safety net for these citizens and empower them with digital and financial training to take charge of their lives and households.
Under this initiative, a brick-and-mortar centre called a Yojana Kendra will be established in select communities. Women agents will be identified and trained as Haqdarshaks to serve and support the community. This agent cadre will mobilise potential beneficiaries, from low-income families i.e. those with minimal access to social protection and financial services.
The support agents will conduct financial literacy training camps using audio-visual tools and easy-to-understand content in local languages. Beneficiaries will be screened with the Haqdarshak mobile app to determine their eligibility for welfare programs and the agent will provide end-to-end support to fill forms, collect documents, and register beneficiaries under social protection programmes. A helpline will be available for any queries or grievance redressal. The programme will be executed by 400 support agents, and there will be one supervisor for every 40 agents.
The financial literacy rate among Indian adults is the lowest compared to other major emerging economies, with only 24% being financially literate, according to a report by the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center. This disparity is attributed to a need for formal training and awareness, as well as inter-state differences. Access to social welfare and financial inclusion services at the last mile is a critical challenge. According to a 2017 World Bank study, only 40 per cent of Indians can apply for government services as they cannot afford the time and money to access them. The collaboration comes at a crucial time when marginalised communities continue to grapple with the economic impact in the wake of the pandemic.
Shoma Narayanan, Managing Director, Group Strategic Marketing & Communications, DBS Bank India, said, “As a socially responsible bank, we recognise the need to create impact beyond banking and to encourage solutions for a more inclusive world. Our partnership with Haqdarshak is a concerted effort to empower marginalised communities, particularly women, by providing them access to social welfare and financial tools, which will increase self-sufficiency and give them agency over their lives. We are also proud of Haqdarshak, which has scaled significantly as a Business for Good under the DBS Foundation’s Grant Programme, and shares our purpose to build a better future.”
Aniket Doegar, Founder & CEO, Haqdarshak, commented on the partnership, saying, “DBS Foundation has been an early partner of ours since 2018. They have always put impact at the forefront and supported us, whether it was when Haqdarshak was a young organisation, through the pandemic, or now, as we have achieved scale. For us at Haqdarshak, this is our largest project so far. We are excited about our impact footprint — we will be touching the lives of 2,00,000 citizens, majority of them women, across disadvantaged sections of the community via digital and financial literacy training and by linking them to relevant welfare entitlements. We are grateful to the DBS Foundation for collaborating with us on this important program. We hope to grow our partnership manifold in the years to come.”
Haqdarshak aims to improve the lives of citizens and MSMEs by leveraging technology solutions to provide access to government welfare and financial services. With an extensive database of 7000+ state and central welfare schemes, available in 11 Indian languages through web and mobile channels, Haqdarshak offers features such as beneficiary onboarding, a customisable eligibility engine, and an end-to-end application workflow.
In 2018, as an early-stage venture, Haqdarshak received DBS Foundation’s Social Enterprise Grant for their digital platform. Again in 2020, in response to the pandemic, DBS Foundation reinforced its commitment to supporting social enterprises by awarding all its past grantees the Business Transformation and Improvement (BTI) Grant, empowering them to continue during an exceptionally difficult year. Haqdarshak utilised this grant to serve its beneficiaries and the wider MSME community through a new platform providing access to government-assisted schemes for registrations, documentation, and financing applications.
Earlier this year, DBS bank committed an additional SGD 100 million to further its efforts to improve lives in Asia. This would allow the bank and DBS Foundation to boost their support for purpose-driven businesses and contribute towards finding solutions to the region’s increasingly pressing societal issues.