Financial Inclusion in India: Social Enterprises as the Unlikely Heroes

India collection

By D. Anisha Adhikari and Siddhant Mishra

Financial inclusion in India has been the area of focus for the government and social enterprises for some time now. While the tribal populace, especially women, stay largely excluded from access to financial services, several institutions and government initiatives seek to address such a challenge.


Sukirna Majhi, a 65-year-old tribal woman from eastern India, was once not allowed inside a temple because she was poor and belonged to the lower strata of the society. Rani Hembrum, another tribal woman, was dislodged from her village because she was suspected of practicing sorcery and witchcraft. Witch hunting is an instrument of class as well as gender oppression used by villagers to oust the suspect from the society and take away their land.

The marginalised tribal women in India have not just experienced inequalities of class and gender, but also of caste and religion. The woes of financial exclusion are symptomatic of deep-seated structural disparities, which not only curtail access to formal financial provisions but also the capacity to participate in other aspects of social life.

Women from the de-notified tribes remain excluded from the financial system because of social exclusion of their communities, lack of market access, rigid infrastructure of the banking system, and underdeveloped business and financial skills. Given the fact that most of them are employed in the unorganised sector, there is a lack of job security.

Despite a radical transformation in the Indian economy over the last few years, women’s participation in the labour force has been called “precarious”. The International Labour Organisation ranks India’s Female Labour Force Participation (FLFP) rate at 121 out of 131 countries as of 2013, among the lowest in the world. Only 27% of Indian women are noted to be in the work force – the lowest among the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) nations and G-20 countries.1

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About the Author

D. Anisha Adhikari is a Social researcher and Economic Affairs Officer at the UN, based in Geneva. Prior to joining the UN, she worked as an IT security consultant with Yahoo and JP Morgan. She is also a public speaker who catalyses social impact leadership and has been helping social enterprises tackle their challenges using design-thinking methodologies, facilitating events and collaborations. Anisha holds an MS in Information Security from Florida State University.

Siddhant Mishra is a Business journalist, based in New Delhi, India. He has previously worked in leading dailies like The Hindu BusinessLine, and Mint. He has also worked briefly as an investment banking data analyst with Verity Knowledge Solutions, an affiliate of UBS.



1. International Labour Organisation (2013). India: Why is women’s labour force participation dropping?.–en/index.htm

2. Rhythma Kaul. (2017). India’s Maternal Mortality Rate on a decline.

3. Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana. (PMJDY).

4. Crisil Research (2018). India’s financial inclusion improves significantly.

5. The Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India (2017). 19 per cent of Indian population is still unbanked: ASSOCHAM-EY.

6. Sa-Dhan (2016). The Bharat Microfinance Report 2016.

7. Bank gross NPAs at Rs8.41 trillion in December 2017.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.