Women's financial freedom key step towards progress

Indian women seek unconventional financial services for support
Last Updated : 23 August 2022, 17:45 IST
Last Updated : 23 August 2022, 17:45 IST

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Sahana (name changed) from Varanasi is a 16-year-old homemaker working as an embroidery artist and taking care of a five-member family with a sick husband. She inherited three children from her husband’s first wife and is responsible for their education and well-being. When her husband fell sick, Sahana had to withdraw her savings originally meant for the children’s education, for his treatment. Thankfully, she was saving with a neo bank that helps rural women like her to save for the future. Neo banks deal directly with customers; with no branch presence, they are fully digital and app-based.

Financial freedom for women, especially in India, has been a grey area. The social conditioning of women as the decision maker of money matters at home has long been there, but sadly it didn't do much to improve personal wealth creation for women across age groups until the 21st century. Even now, according to the LXME Women & Money Power Report 2022, a total of 55 per cent of women in India are not making informed investment decisions; 33 per cent don't invest at all, and 22 per cent are not aware of investments in their name.

“We started Kaleidofin to address the formal financial needs of the 600 million underbanked customers in India,” says Sucharita Mukherjee, CEO & Co-founder of the neobank Kaleidofin and a globally recognised fintech leader.

“Access to finance is a much bigger challenge for women. Mobility constraints and defined gender roles (which also influence the understanding of financial products) were and continue to be amongst the two most dominant reasons that have prevented women from having direct access to formal financial services. At the same time, most women manage the household finances and save at least a small amount regularly towards life goals such as the education of their child,” according to Mukherjee.

Beenu Gupta runs a chaat shop with her husband in Madiyaon, Lucknow. Having a family of five, Gupta availed her first loan in 2017. Today she has gone through three cycles of loans from ARTH, a micro-finance service platform for marginalised populations.

“I wasn’t aware that you could get a loan from such a company, and if they (ARTH) had not organized the 'Sakhee Sabha,' I could have missed out on the benefits provided under the scheme," said Beenu.

LXME Women & Money Power 2022 survey was conducted among 4,000 women across the metros (60 per cent), tier 2 (29 per cent) and tier 3 (11 per cent) cities, including both working and non-working women across the age groups 21-45 years.

According to LXME’s founder Priti Rathi Gupta, “The findings deliver a strong message on how women are not making their own money decisions, which stems from a lack of financial awareness leading to misconceptions and a fear of investing.”

Not everyone is looking for loans, though.

Bharathi Udaya Kumar started her home-based business of premixed food and beverage items from Bengaluru during the lockdown, selling to her neighbours primarily. At 57, Kumar felt she would be turned down by traditional banks for a loan as an entrepreneur. She decided to compete in a startup accelerator program for older adults organised by GetSetUp, a community learning platform she has been a member of. Kumar is one of the two Indian participants who won funding of $2500 from the program and plans to use it to expand her product line and onboard new customers via digital marketing.

Women make excellent money managers, but despite that, their involvement in decision-making is low to average for financial investments and high purchase decisions.

Gupta added, “Learning to invest and gaining financial literacy is a necessity for the woman of today. In the end, it is taking control of their investments that give them the power to have a say in their financial future and that of loved ones.”

(Chandreyi Bandyopadhyay is an independent marketing professional with a penchant for writing about travel, food & socio-cultural issues)

Published 23 August 2022, 17:00 IST

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