Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

Our Organization

Vest-In-Villages (India), DART (USA)

What is the name of your solution?

DART- Data Analytics Rating and Tracking

Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

An innovative digital solution for data collection, analysis, and decision-making at household and institutional levels for the underserved rural borrowers comprising of individuals and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs)

What specific problem are you solving?

Globally, about 1.7 billion people are unbanked and underserved. Of those about 270 million live in rural India. They are less educated, with limited familiarity of formal financial services and consist of marginal farmers, micro, small & medium entrepreneurs especially women entrepreneurs and persons with disabilities . This inhibits their ability to access timely credit, to operate and grow their enterprises as Financial Institutions are unable to serve them. 

Lack of relevant data is the biggest constraint and challenge for financial institutions. Systematic and timely risk assessments, credit reporting, and cashflow forecasting are mostly absent. As per Micro-Finance Institutions Network (MFIN) estimates, micro-finance reaches less than 30% of potential households in India.  Less than 22% of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) have access to formal credit. About 55% women in India do not use bank accounts actively; overall 23% lack access to formal financial services.

The future of sustainable agricultural development and achieving inclusive growth depends on the performance of these individuals and MSMEs. Lack of data about borrowers impairs their ability to access affordable, timely and cost-effective credit, leading to financial exclusion. 

What is your solution?

We have developed a one-stop solution called DART for data collection, analysis, and decision-making at household and institutional levels for the unbanked and underserved rural borrowers. Our unique mobile app with an easy-to-use interface and delivery mechanism helps financial institutions and governments streamline their data collection and monitoring mechanisms. 

The digital tool provides an authentic scoring mechanism based on extensive analytics of data collected at the source i.e. households and community organizations like Self Help Groups (SHGs), federations, and credit organisations. We build their family and credit history overtime with the data collected which is both quantitative and qualitative in nature. Governments and financial institutions can then make data-backed, sound-lending decisions based on the risk ratings generated by the DART tool. 

Our tool provides:

Data Analytics, Risk Rating and Tracking in real-time

  1. We do household and institutional ratings. Our unique analytics is based on a comprehensive list of indicators and data points, which provide authentic assessments and risk-rating in an easy-to-understand format, in real-time. 
  2. Effective facilitation techniques are critical to collecting authentic data, therefore our methodology combines technology with human interaction to gain clear insights. 

Technical Assistance Package to strengthen capacity of borrowers and their institutions.

  1. Tailored and hands-on financial literacy training to the households.
  2. Customized Technical Assistance Packages (TAP) to the last mile institutions. We build their capacity and strengthen them in administration and management of their credit portfolio, governance, inclusion aspects, savings and risk reduction strategies.
  3. Hands-on training to the field partners to build capacity at the local and state level in using the tool to support the last mile institutions and households in achieving their goals and tracking their performance and impact. 
DART Explained

Our Approach

Rating Table

Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

Our solution serves both the demand and supply side, while bridging the gap between the borrowers and the lenders. 

On the demand side, we serve the unbanked & underserved borrowers who are in need of formal financial services. These are small marginal farmers, women entrepreneurs, people with disabilities, nano enterprises, MSMEs, and their credit organizations, Self-Help Groups (SHGs), and Federations.

Our tool helps them to formulate an informed and tailored solution to their credit needs. It helps families and last-mile institutions become financially literate, improve their budgeting skills, and increase their business planning acumen. We thus help bring affordable, timely, and flexible credit to these poor families and their enterprises in rural areas.

Units of Reference

Our solution has large potential in India with approx. 270 million underserved and unbanked households. MSME present an unmet demand of almost Rs. 20 trillion in India. There are more than 100 million nano and 13 million micro and small enterprises led by women in India, supported in National Rural Livelihood Program (NRLM) by Government of India, who need hassle free access to credit and can be served through our product. 

On the supply side, we offer DART services to third parties such as governments, non-profit/impact agencies, and financial institutions interested in lending to the financially excluded.

Our mobile app helps financial institutions maintain a comprehensive database of financial and non-financial data of the borrowers, create customized reports with risk assessments and monitor compliance towards set financial targets. Presently, most of the data collection by financial institutions is done manually which is time-consuming and prone to errors. Our mobile-based technology enables these organizations to digitize their entire data collection processes thus helping them improve efficiency, reduce costs, and reach the most-needy beneficiaries.

DART helps third parties to: 

  1. assess capacity and quality of borrowers and their organizations, 
  2. measure their performance and 
  3. track the impact of credit. 

How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Our founder Meena Munshi has designed the DART technology based on her extensive experience in the World Bank in designing and managing rural development and livelihood programs. She has a wealth of experience in developing and strengthening inclusive pro-poor institutions and creating & facilitating learning platforms at local, national, and global levels.

She has been a change agent within the World Bank, and has spent the last 30 years testing and scaling up of an innovative, bottom-up and results-focused rural development and livelihood model. Her focus has been on youth development, employment creation, financial inclusion, and women empowerment in South Asia and Africa region using the bottom of the pyramid and holistic approach to development.  The model has been scaled up to thousands of village communities within South Asia and Africa, benefitting millions of poor families. This model has been well recognized within the World Bank and by client countries, winning several awards globally.

She left the World Bank in 2019 to take her dream of helping others to the next level by bringing in an innovative technological solution to financial inclusion. Working directly with the institutions of the poor and transferring her knowledge and experience to others is Meena’s passion.

Our co-founders, Prof. Suresh Babu and Prof. Arun Kumar at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras bring in decades of experience in evidence-based impact assessments, business finance and social audit. 

The DART core advisory team consists of internationally reputed experts with decades worth of experience in financial inclusion. 

Mr. Arjun Muralidharan, Founder and Managing Director of Grow XCD, is a leader in finance and banking with experience of leading multiple teams and projects in management, rural retail lending, business strategy, market and business due diligence.  

Ms. Neha Desai Shah, is the President and co-founder of GEP, a global provider of strategy, software and management services to enterprise supply chain management and procurement at Fortune 500 and Global 2000 companies. 

Mr. Henry K. Bagazonzya has four decades of experience as technical advisor and in management positions in private sector and rural development. Henry has more than a decade of experience working with the World Bank, with focus on rural development and access to responsible, inclusive financial services. 

Dr. Gamini Batuwitage has more than three decades of experience working in senior positions with the Government of Sri Lanka and leading rural development portfolio. Dr. Gamini has decades of experience in building and sustaining of community institutions, with application of information technology for creating new opportunities for the poor and the underprivileged, to change circumstances.

We were incubated by IIT-MadrasIncubation Cell in June 2022, and by Reserve Bank Innovation Hub in November 2022. IIT-Incubation cell and RBI-Innovation Hub are supporting us with seed funding, business and sector experts, and linking us to their platform of investors and funding agencies. 

Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Provide new ways to accurately assess credit-worthiness of MSMEs and individuals, including methods that reduce bias against borrowers who have traditionally lacked equitable access to credit

In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

Our Indian operations – Vest-in-Villages is headquartered in IIT Research Park, Chennai, India. Our USA company, DART Technology is registered in New York and operations are carried out from Florida.

In what country is your solution team headquartered?

  • India
  • United States

What is your solution’s stage of development?

Pilot: An organization testing a product, service, or business model with a small number of users

How many people does your solution currently serve?

Our first pilot was carried out in Rajasthan during 2017-2020 in Duni block, Tonk district, in partnership with a national and reputed NGO (SRIJAN) and with a Federation of Self-Help Groups (Maitree Mahila Mandal Samiti). 

It included four “clusters” of Self-Help Groups (SHGs), all part of the Maitree Federation of SHGs. The Maitree federation consisted of about 6000 women members. Our pilot consisted of 400 members.

The pilot helped us verify key assumptions and to learn lessons for further improvement in order to develop a scalable model. The pilot led us to develop the digital platform called Data Analytics, Rating and Tracking (DART) tool.

The digital platform is operational, and we launched first test of the DART tool in Tamil Nadu, Trivallur district with Samanthavadha Panchayat Level Federation of SHGs in Pallipat block with about 200 families in October 2021. Based on the findings and learnings of the pilot, we have further improved and refined the digital tool.

We carried out the soft launch of the DART tool in Trichy district in Tamil Nadu with a local NGO called Organization for Development Action (ODA) in April 2022. The pilot was tested with a federation of special groups consisting of female-headed households and physically challenged members consisting of about 150 member households.  The purpose of this pilot was to test all process steps of the digital tool.  We have completed data analytics of first 100 families.  Based on analytics, a list of qualified borrowers has been prepared and shared with the ODA management. Loans have been released for first set of qualified borrowers to initiate economic activities. 

We are signing contracts with two new clients:

1. Tamil Nadu Rural Transformation Project (TNRTP) - pilot with 1200 households

2. Transform Rural India Foundation (TRIF) in Uttar Pradesh - pilot with 6000 households

Why are you applying to Solve?

By applying to Solve, we are looking for an opportunity to partner with a prestigious platform and to collaborate with like-minded innovators. We would like to make valuable partnerships and leverage the resources to scale up the operations and reach out to more nano/micro/small entrepreneurs especially women during the next 12 months in at least 2 states in India. The objective will be to demonstrate value and scalability of the DART tool both for impact agencies as well as for the nano and small women-led enterprises.   

Vest-in-Villages will contribute in terms of expertise, digital platform, checking quality of data, and generation of reports for each entrepreneur. We will also help with family level development, business plan and in tracking the changes/impact. We will invest in the technology and providing technical assistance but we will need resources to collect data, and train field level facilitators. Resources and support needed are:  

  • Marketing and dissemination of learnings from the launch
  • Partnership with data science labs
  • Impact evaluations and dissemination of learnings and product
  • We also need additional seed funding of USD 200,000 to prepare for scale of digital platform. 

In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Financial (e.g. accounting practices, pitching to investors)
  • Human Capital (e.g. sourcing talent, board development)
  • Legal or Regulatory Matters
  • Product / Service Distribution (e.g. delivery, logistics, expanding client base)
  • Public Relations (e.g. branding/marketing strategy, social and global media)

Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Meena Munshi

More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

Challenge: There is a plethora of attempts to develop credit scoring tools for farmers and non-urban communities in emerging economies. However, lack of local empirical detailed knowledge compels them to use “big data” and GPS-related data.  Moreover such models use historical financial variable, which rural borrowers do not have.  Many of the existing digital lending platforms place their emphasis on the protection of the lenders (and on business risks rather than on social risks).  

Our Solution: We map and primarily take into account the risks of potential borrowers. The key information including borrowers’ behavior enables the development of scorecards for effective and unbiased selection of borrowers for funding. We analyze, identify and rate borrowers and track their performance, which is updated in real time. We revisit the data as and when required and carry out a yearly performance measurement 

Challenge: Innovations like mobile payment systems may lower the cost of transactions but do not qualify the poor for loans. Underserved families remain underserved. 

Our Solution: DART brings in granular data churning at the back-end, using statistical models and analytics to service borrowers’ just in time for their financial needs, with just the right loan size and repayment frequencies. It will also allow in predicting the portfolio behaviors at various geographies and segments and hence, predict likely defaults or credit losses accurately. Users will be in a position to offer products that the borrower needs. 

Challenge: Digital Financial Services (DFSs) can only be used where internet access is available. In India, 23% of the population don’t have access to mobile technology. These are people most likely to be in poverty, yet they are precisely those that digital financial services cannot reach. 

Our Solution: DART data is saved in local devices and synchronized as soon as there is network availability. We focus on the population that is unbanked, have no collateral, and do not have access to technology. 

Challenge: Taken in isolation from their communities, unbanked rural households would struggle to be eligible for loans. 

Our Solution: While the household as a social and economic unit constitutes the building block of our DART™ tool, we also assess the quality and capacity gaps of the community and institutional support that these borrowers can rely on. This is the reason we believe our solution will have a positive impact on Financial Inclusion.

What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

We would like to scale up the operations and commercially launch the digital platform and reach out to about 10,000 nano/micro/small entrepreneurs especially women during next 12 months in at least 2 states in India. The objective of the pilot will be to demonstrate value and scalability of the DART tool both for impact agencies as well as for the nano and small women- led enterprises.   

Our impact goal for the next five years therefore is to make DART tool an integral part of wider network globally and reach out to millions of unbanked and underserved households through partners in the field. 

Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 1. No Poverty
  • 5. Gender Equality
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 10. Reduced Inequalities
  • 16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
  • 17. Partnerships for the Goals

How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

No Poverty - More than 90% of households who we serve are classified as ‘extreme poor’ or ‘poor’. 

By improving their knowledge and financial literacy, the borrowers would be able to take loans based on informed decisions, which is a first step in reducing their debts.

Gender Equality - All last mile institutions we work with are run by women, and at least 80% of members are women. 

Our focus is on women’s social, financial and economic empowerment. We are working with women-led livelihood groups and federations in India.

Decent Work & Economic Growth - At every level, we promote business skills, local employment, and self-employment. 

Our analytics/statistical models, with just the right loan size and repayment frequencies, will allow for customized product offerings tailored to each borrower’s needs and aspirations, hence will reduce risk of low repayments.

Reduced Inequalities - DART services equip low-income and vulnerable households with the tools to make them more resilient to emergencies and income shocks. 

We define success as customizing loan products to the needs of the individual and nano/MSME borrowers; providing tailored financial literacy and institutional support to the borrowers and their organizations; and offering innovative methodology for borrower selection, tracking of repayments and measuring of impact, all of which contribute to financial inclusion.

Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions - DART ensures that partnering institutions uphold their values and serve their communities over the long term. 

We achieve this by strengthening of last mile credit delivery institutions.

Partnership for Goals - We work with NGOs, government departments, financial institutions and other impact organizations to connect people locally and globally. 

We offer services to 3rd parties interested in lending to the unbanked. We would measure our performance by the number of 3rd parties who have used  DART and by number of unbanked reached through them. 

We consider success as being able to scale up our operations.  

This scale will happen through: 

(a) strengthening of last mile credit delivery institutions; and 

(b) by licensing the DART’s use and certifying its processes to expand its use by 3rd parties.

What is your theory of change?

Insights derived from the data gathered at the doorsteps of households and community institutions will allow a more granular understanding of borrower capacity and will enable a more deliberate approach, ability to manage risks and better design services and products for the borrowers. 

We believe the risk assessment;

  1. will help the families better understand their own budget, 
  2. understand the impact of different expenses on the overall expenses of the family, and 
  3. to partly correct their behaviour so as to increase savings and decrease unwanted expenses. 

We believe the SHGs will also benefit and understand better their own capacity of managing loans. They will understand how a well-prepared credit and business plan can help guarantee better outcomes of the loans. 

Thus we are confident that our solution will not only provide credit where needed, but will also work as a capacity building tool that looks holistically at the problem to be solved.

The strength of a household relies on the strength of the communities to which it belongs and we believe by empowering women we can empower communities.

Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

DART is a mobile application which leverages technology, data and expertise to de-risk low-income households. 

  • Our digital tool uses predictive modelling to predict behaviour by looking at correlations between data and loan repayment, thus building risk groups and risk profiles. 
  • Algorithm-based borrower loan request processing, approval, disbursement and tracking provides for a tool that can be trusted, ultimately bringing down the cost of credit.

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new business model or process that relies on technology to be successful

Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Software and Mobile Applications

In which countries do you currently operate?

  • India

In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • India
Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

For-profit, including B-Corp or similar models

How many people work on your solution team?

Full-Time Staff: 4 Part-Time Staff: 6 Contractors: 2 Others: 4 (Advisors)

How long have you been working on your solution?

5 years

What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?

Core Values

INTEGRITY - We do what is right and ethical 

RESPECT - We care for our clients, our partners, and our teams 

TEAMWORK - We work together, across boundaries, to meet the needs of our clients and believe in collaboration to achieve our goals 

OPEN COMMUNICATION - We believe in being open, honest and transparent 

INNOVATION - We encourage creativity and out of the box thinking. We give everyone an opportunity to innovate, take calculated risks and find better ways of doing things 

IMPACT - We are purpose-driven. We help our partners and clients solve their challenges and track impact.

Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

We operate at B2B2C level

We work directly with Government Agencies, NGOs & Impact Organizations, Micro-finance Institutions, Banks and other Financial Institutions interested in lending to the financially excluded. We offer Data Analytics, Rating and Tracking (DART) services. Through our partners, we reach out to last mile institutions, unbanked households and women-led enterprises providing them financial literacy, business planning skills, and risk reduction strategies. We also build the capacity of the SHGs & federations to serve their member households for their livelihood and business activities.

Services and Revenue generation

  • Digital Data Services - we offer data analysis, rating and tracking services to governments, non-profits/impact agencies and financial institutions interested in lending to the financially excluded.
  • Technical Assistance and Capacity Building - Customized technical assistance to government agencies, non-profits, and community organizations
  • Research & Impact - We can create customized reports depending upon each clients requests and priority areas. The comprehensive database allows us to generate specific reports which can be used for research and analysis by governments, financial institutions and impact agencies.
  • License fee from governments and financial institutions for using DART internally. 

Competition/market risk - While there are competitors in the market that carry out similar digital risk assessments but the audience is mostly urban/educated/bankable customers.  NABARD e-Shakti and some of the state governments have come up with digital applications to record SHG transactions but not for risk assessment and detailed analytics at the household level. Therefore there is not much of competition in rural space and for uneducated and underserved borrowers.

Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Organizations (B2B)

What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?

Our revenue generation model is based on the following:

  1. Fee-based Service - which would depend on the level of services provided. For analytics and risk assessment service at family, SHG, and federation level, the fee is 2.5%, but for bundled services such as analytics, annual risk assessment, tracking and TA support, the service fee is 5%;
  2. Subscription model - Monthly and annual subscriptions for SHGs/federations which will include hands-on TA support and monitoring of financial and other indicators.  There would be a monthly subscription to the partners based on the number of households, self-help-groups and federations;
  3. License fee - In addition, eventually, we could license DART and have license fee for the usage.  In this case, our cost will be only for training, backstopping, and reporting.  The analytics/rating will be carried out by the clients themselves. 
  4. Initial seed funding/equity and grants of about $400,000 are required to set-up the technology and other operational systems. 

Share some examples of how your plan to achieve financial sustainability has been successful so far.

DART is a social enterprise that will run commercially to self-sustain financially. Revenue will be generated through providing our services (analytics, risk assessment, tracking of financial and other data) to third parties e.g. governments, non-governmental organizations, and financial institutions (banks and micro-finance institutions).

So far we have not received any grants, but have generated some revenue through Rajasthan pilot during 2018-2020, and we will soon be signing contracts with 2 clients and raise revenue through the pilots. 

Grants are being sought at this phase to cover one-off, non-recurrent costs to set up systems, run pilots, and to fund some operational costs which is mainly technical assistance, till break-even is achieved.

The faster operations scale up, the sooner the break-even point can be achieved. We believe that business models which “do good” while maximising profits have a higher chance of being replicated than non-profit models. The replicability of the model is essential to enable the model to reach scale and achieve wider and sustainable impact. 

Solution Team

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