GIV: Enabler of the Rural Entrepreneur

How do women in India’s rural hinterland spend the day? Household chores, looking after their goats or cows, working on the land if their husbands are farmers?

Would you believe, if I say, that more than half a million women from the poorest of poor families are beginning their entrepreneurial journey right now? They do not own a successful business yet, but they are betting they will soon: by building up a base of village women who value their opinion in financial and consumer decisions.

They are the Grameen Mittras, or friends of the village.

Last year, the country’s attention was drawn to the plight of migrant workers after they lost their jobs in the first lockdown triggered in March 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic. Left without jobs, money or shelter, thousands of men, women and children had to trudge back to their villages from the cities where they had gone for work. Women employees and entrepreneurs traditionally face more challenges than men. A report by Azim Premji University on one year of the COVID-19 pandemic and the state of working India said women were seven times more likely to lose their jobs during last year’s lockdown and 11 times more likely to not return to work.

Women running micro and medium business were left worse off than their male compatriots because of the pandemic. It was found that 43% of women-owned businesses saw their profits fall to less than Rs 10,000 a month, while only 16% owned by men did so.

The findings increase the urgency to check if we are really creating an environment for women entrepreneurs to flourish.

Entrepreneurs need a strong financial backbone to maximize their business potential. As India continues to tackle the pandemic, we have learnt several lessons. One is the urgent need to digitalize financial services faster and on a larger scale. While getting millions of the poor to open bank accounts was a start, it doesn’t do justice to the real meaning of financial inclusion. For women in rural India, access to financial services is still a struggle.

To address these issues, Grameen Impact Ventures, based on the social enterprise ideas of Prof. Muhammad Yunus, has rekindled the spirit of entrepreneurship to build sustainable human capital. The financial crisis spawned by the COVID-19 pandemic has strengthened the idea that led to the creation of GIV.

All human beings are born entrepreneurs. Some get a chance to unleash that capacity. Some never got the chance, never knew that he or she has that capacity- Muhammad Yunus

Through GIV’s Grameen Mittra Connect, Indians belonging to rural areas are unleashing the power of entrepreneurship. GIV acts as an enabler for the market forces to ensure a more inclusive approach with a positive outcome for financial inclusion.

GIV, structured around convenience, competitiveness and consistency, has partnered with nearly half a million women from 950+ villages across four districts in Maharashtra and Bihar in just two years. We are growing with a gross transaction value of more than Rs 100 lakh. We have achieved these milestones because of the support of our 70+ employees.

GIV enables rural women to set out on a journey to success and a better livelihood. Our determination to create opportunities for women has been yielding benefits to the individual and society. Grameen Mittra Connect, the wave of empowered women entrepreneurs, is connecting women across India.