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© 2020 Opportunity Internationala 501(c)3 nonprofit. EIN: 540907624.

India’s rapid economic growth over the last decade tells a story of dichotomous milestones: skyscrapers are rising in the midst of sprawling slums; technology is enabling families to grow their incomes, but not available to the families that need it most. Millions of families have been lifted out of poverty, yet as of 2015, 24% of those living in extreme poverty lived in India — the largest concentration in the world.

The stark inequalities perpetuate generational cycles of prosperity and poverty, which present challenges unique to India — but they also present incredible opportunities. India’s expanding digital infrastructure, the government’s Aadhaar biometric identification system, and the abundance of socially focused microfinance institutions hold significant potential as levers to accelerate systemic financial and digital inclusion of excluded groups, especially women.

India by the Numbers

  • 1.4B total population
  • 66% of the population lives in rural areas
  • 13% of the population lives on less than $1.90 per day
  • 80% of adults have bank accounts
  • 92% of children complete primary school
  • 20% of the formal workforce is women 

Opportunity in India

Opportunity’s initiatives in India are designed to create economic opportunities for the millions of people living in extreme poverty; improve quality of life for families, especially those in rural regions; educate children who have limited educational opportunities; and promote financial inclusion, gender parity, and income-generating opportunities for women.

With one of the largest populations in the world—and one of the largest concentrations of those living in extreme poverty—India faces both enormous challenges and significant opportunities for advancement and development.

In India, Opportunity focuses on initiatives including:

  1. Promoting gender equality and creating economic opportunities for women.
    Especially in regions with strong patriarchal roots, women more readily trust other women with their finances. Female agent bankers travel to rural communities to reach unbanked women and provide them with banking services. Instead of interacting with an unknown teller, a woman can interact with her agent, whom she trusts and who speaks her dialect, to access small loans to grow her business and to digitally deposit savings to protect her income.

  2. Ensuring that families can send their children to school.
    Through EduFinance initiatives, Opportunity helps mothers afford the costs of sending both their daughters and sons to school. We also help local educators access capital to grow and improve their schools, including adding gender-separated bathrooms, which are essential for keeping adolescent girls in school.

  3. Equipping local leaders to meet the basic health needs of their neighbors.
    In partnership with Healing Fields, we train local women to be Community Health Leaders. These women learn basic healthcare skills, then teach mothers throughout their communities life-saving health best practices to keep their families safe.

Meet Renju

Renju is an agent banker who serves more than 900 women by traveling around Thrissur, India, with her moped and tablet. Most of her clients are women with many household and childcare responsibilities, in addition to their small businesses, that keep them from traveling far distances to bank branches.

Renju’s tablet allows her to serve her clients remotely and verifies identities with just a fingerprint or iris scan. After she accepts a cash deposit, she sends an SMS alert to her client’s mobile phone, verifying that their deposit was accepted and processed — an important assurance for women whose $5 deposit could be an entire week’s earnings. For the women she serves, Renju is a vital link to banking services. She ensures women can access loans and protect their hard-earned income without having to leave home.

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