In order to help women entrepreneurs to launch, grow and thrive in their business, the global payments technology major, Mastercard and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have announced their partnership on Thursday to launch Project Kirana. The project aims to help increase revenue streams, expand financial inclusion and digital payments adoption of kirana shops that are owned or operated by women in India.

To begin with, as many as 3,000 such women are targeted to be enrolled under this project in certain places in Uttar Pradesh. Mastercard said that around the world, gender inequality limited women-owned businesses’ ability to launch, grow and thrive. To address these gaps, 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, it added. A two year programme, the project will first be rolled out in select cities of Uttar Pradesh - Lucknow, Kanpur and Varanasi. “The focus will specifically be on building financial and literacy skills and the topics will include banking, digital payments, savings and credit as well as insurance. We will also improve business management skills that are critical to kirana shops to improve their profitability,” said Alison Eskesen, Vice President, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. USAID has a global network of more than 186 gender advisors who work to accelerate USAID’s gender work worldwide.

“It is a really powerful initiative. It is the extension of what we are doing in many markets and we have committed in a large part of India. Globally, we have committed $ 250 million towards supporting SMEs (small and medium enterprises),” said Porush Singh, division president (South Asia) of Mastercard, while announcing the partnership at a virtual event on Thursday. He further added that in India, the company has committed $ 33 million. “It is a large chunk to help bring SMEs and empower women entrepreneurs for the next five years,” stated Porush.

Recently, Mastercard announced a commitment of Rs. 250 crore ($ 33 million) to help reboot Indian SMEs and enable business recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the commitment, the company has launched multiple initiatives in India in helping small businesses go online by growing digital payments. The initiatives will also drive inclusive growth by enabling small merchants and kirana stores with access to credit and empower women entrepreneurs by increasing their business acumen.