Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in India’s Largest Retail Sector: USAID and Mastercard Partner for Small Business Acceleration

Date published: March 28, 2022

Project Kirana is currently training 3,000 women shop owners and managers in the cities of Lucknow and Kanpur, working to optimize business operations and leverage digital and financial tools to improve decision-making, personal agency, and revenue.

Small retail shops are one of India's largest and most dynamic industries and collectively account for over ten percent of the country’s GDP. Many of these shops—known as kiranas in Hindi—are small family-owned businesses that sell everything from groceries to cosmetics and are primarily managed by women. However, due to local gender norms in many small business operations, most of these women are not legally recognized as business owners—with only nine percent of the nation’s 16 million retail establishments currently owned by women, when in reality the number should be significantly higher.

To address this inequity, Mastercard and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) partnered to launch Project Kirana, a business development and digital financial literacy accelerator program for women micro-entrepreneurs. Implemented by ACCESS Development Services and DAI, Project Kirana currently provides training services to nearly 3,000 women managing small businesses in Lucknow and Kanpur, which both have a high concentration of women-owned and operated kiranas.

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