Where We Work

South Asia

Learn how our efforts have benefitted women and banking institutions in this region.

Primary Problem We’ve Set Out to Address

Usage and Engagement for Underbanked

In 2018, we saw that India had opened millions of Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) accounts, but the majority were sitting dormant at >70% – in fact, data showed that 100MM women were unbanked vs. 400+MM who were underbanked. We committed to focus our work on increasing usage and engagement of financial services to which women had access. Our first action was to start with savings ‘nudges’ with the goals to expand to other use cases such as payments, credit, insurance, insurance. Realizing the large number and growth of underserved women MSMEs in India, as well as the proliferation of digital financial services, we also targeted our focus on business services and digital financial capabilities of low-income women.

How We're Addressing the Problem

We crafted a strategic approach to partner with diverse financial service providers including public sector banks, state governments, fintechs and small finance banks. Together, along with our engagement with regulators and other government stakeholders, we are:

  • Mainstreaming savings for low-income women through our partnership with public sector banks to roll out ‘Jan Dhan Plus’, a savings mobilization program
  • Empowering women as banking agents to build their income and serve as a trusted delivery channel of financial services to rural women
  • Driving affordable credit for women-owned businesses and addressing gender bias in lending
  • Designing digital payments for women through our partnering with digital financial service provider

What We Are Learning

A few lessons we’ve learned along our journey include:

  1. The need to be local
  2. The need to iterate because geographies, banks, segments of clients may have differing characteristics that require adaptation and customization
  3. The need to show proof and results in terms of business case and FSP KPIs – that what we advocate for is working; for example, the critical role of agent and role of data
  4. Advisory led advocacy is key in motivating the ecosystem to implement gender intentional design of products and solutions, build the business case, and create advocates across sectors.

Results We Are Seeing

Within the past 5 years and through our partnership with Bank of Baroda, Indian Bank, Union Bank of India and Small Finance Bank, and Ujjivan we’ve deepened financial services usage and engagement for over 2.86 million women and reached over 10.6 million women through savings or credit led solutions. Public sector banks are implementing our minimum recommendation to staff 30% of banking agents with women. Credit organizations and fintechs are assessing for bias and re-engineering their value chains to be gender intentional. Overall, an increasing number of regulators, apex bodies and FSPs are embracing women-centered design practices.

Our South Asia Team

Kalpana Ajayan

Regional Head

Nirmala Vedula

Relationship Management

Varun Dhawan

Advisory Services

Flavy Sen Sharma

Evidence and Insights

Parvej Sheikh

Advisory Services

Swati Chowdhary

Network, Development and Advocacy

Pallavi Madhok

Advisory Services

Heer Chokshi

Communications and Marketing

Ajit Agarwal

Policy Advocacy and Strategic Partnerships

about us south asia team

Our Regional Partners


  • Bank of Baroda 
  • Ujjivan Small Finance Bank 
  • Ananya Finance for Inclusive Growth Pvt. Ltd. 
  • Friends of Women’s World Banking, India
  • Shri Mahila Sewa Sahakari Bank Ltd.
  • Kaleidofin Private Limited
  • Frontier Markets Consulting Pvt Ltd
  • Annapurna Finance Pvt. Ltd (AFPL)
  • Union Bank of India 
  • Indian Bank
  • Lendingkart Technologies Private Limited
  • Sitara (SEWA Grih Rin Limited)
  • Fino Payments Bank


  • Association for Social Advancement (ASA)
  • Shakti Foundation 
  • Thengamara Mohila Sabuj Sangh (TMSS)
  • SAJIDA Foundation
  • Green Delta Insurance Company Limited (GDIC)
  • Dutch-Bangla Bank Ltd (DBBL)


  • Kashf Foundation 
  • JazzCash
  • Pakistan Kuwait Investment Company (Private) Limited


  • Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI)
  • Maharashtra State Rural Livelihood Mission (M-SRLM/ UMED)
  • Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Finance (DFS) 
  • Reserve Bank of India (RBI)
  • Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA)


  • Bangladesh Bank
  • Lead at Krea University
  • Kantar
  • Third Eye

Case Studies

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Bank of Baroda

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south east asia women 01

New Data Frontiers

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