Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

Our Organization


What is the name of your solution?

Budget Rani: A Women's Financial Inclusion Programme

Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

Budget Rani is a grassroots, technological solution for the financial inclusion of women from the unorganised sector.

What specific problem are you solving?

Financial inclusion has been recognised as a critical component of achieving at least 8 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (World Bank, 2022). Despite this, approximately a quarter of adults worldwide are still unbanked, the majority of whom are women (Global Findex, 2021). In recent years, India has made great progress towards financial inclusion driving the increase in global account ownership shown in recent Findex data. For example, Indian account ownership more than doubled from 35 percent in 2011 to 78 percent in 2021 and of the accounts opened 55 percent were women, decreasing gender disparity by nearly 14 percent. A closer look at the data shows that 48 percent of the accounts belonging to women remain inactive. Having observed the low account usage, especially among women, a Reserve Bank of India (RBI) committee recommended leveraging technology to facilitate usage. Initiatives such as Jan Dhan, Aadhar, and Mobile number linkage (JAM Trinity) paved the way for the expansion of digital payments and provided a launchpad for the Direct Benefit Transfers to increase bank account usage. Nevertheless, the maximum usage of digital services among women has remained at receiving government payments. The impacts of Digital India combined with the COVID-19 pandemic has propelled the adoption and usage of digital financial technology and accelerated India’s digital transformation. This has spurred financial inclusion with more than 80 million adults making their first digital merchant payment after the start of the pandemic. 

The goal of making financial services available through digital platforms is to reduce poverty and contribute to a more inclusive society. However, women’s limited access to digital technologies poses a risk of pushing them towards the wrong side of a persistent divide. India’s digital divide has only worsened in recent years with India having the lowest gender parity among the G20 countries (IPCIDE, 2023). NFHS-5 data shows that 53.9 percent of women have a mobile phone that they themselves use, 71 percent of whom can read text messages, yet only 23 percent use their mobiles for financial transactions. To support digital financial transactions the government has developed digital services such as USSD schemes (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) as far back as 2014, allowing users to make financial transfers even if they have no smartphone or data connection. However, many marginalised people, specifically women, lack the digital literacy required to use these services. This is combined with the threat of fraud. India has the second largest digital payment system in the world (IPCIDE, 2023). However, as digital infrastructure has grown at such a rapid speed at low costs, cybersecurity has not advanced in tandem. Among the G20 countries, India has the highest percentage of internet users who have experienced cybercrime (IPCIDE, 2023). Of the cybercrimes, financial services were the most vulnerable representing 67.8 percent of cybercrimes (IPCIDE, 2023). This situation demonstrates many challenges preventing women and marginalised communities from reaping the benefits of financial inclusion.

What is your solution?

Budget Rani has a two pronged approach to women’s financial inclusion: workshops & community advocates and an AI chatbot that answers financial queries with a focus on preventing financial fraud.

The Budget Rani workshops leverage gamification of financial concepts to support women to plan for their futures through budgeting, financial knowledge and access to formal banking services and government schemes. The workshops have had a positive impact on changing women's behaviour and attitude towards finance, empowering many to feel more confident and take control of their own finances. The Budget Rani data demonstrated that 70 percent of women have bank accounts and nearly all had their own mobile phones (basic or feature). Nevertheless, less than 10 percent made digital payment transfers. It was clear that women lacked the knowledge and confidence to utilise digital finance solutions. The Digital Budget Rani programme addresses this situation with trained community members visiting local neighbourhoods, using videos, practical demonstrations and one-on-one support to train women from unorganised sectors on using financial digital services on basic phones such as 123PAY and USSD to make transfers, pay EMIs and check their bank balance. This personal attention is the long-missing link that has contributed to the continued financial exclusion of women. Our interactions with women about finances for the last two years has helped us create a database of the needs of working class and unorganised sector workers and informed our understanding of how to communicate financial concepts. This data will help us create a simple, easy-to-use and scalable tool called Budget Rani ko Puccho (Ask Budget Rani), the second part of our solution. Budget Rani ko Puccho will be an AI-based WhatsApp chatbot that will answer basic questions about finances and formal banking solutions. The chatbot will be trained in regional languages and use voice notes, in addition to chat, for communication to be more accessible. Additionally, Budget Rani ko Puccho will offer risk assessment and financial fraud advice pertaining to the queries being made to prepare against and minimise financial fraud.     

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

More than 90 percent of Indian working women are employed in the unorganised sector (Banerjee, 2019). The Budget Rani programme targets women aged 25 to 50 from marginalised communities and the unorganised sector. These women have low literacy levels which acts as a major barrier in their financial inclusion. Women’s precarious work, low wages and limited literacy leave them in a vulnerable situation. If a family has a smartphone, due to patriarchal norms, it is usually in the control of the male. Even though 23 percent of women who own a mobile phone use digital financial transactions when education and income is accounted for, this number falls to 10 percent (Findex, 2021). Even among urban women, digital transactions are more common among organised than unorganised workers. Many women in the unorganised sector continue to transact in cash and rely on local money lenders in times of crisis. This segment of women are typically left behind as society advances. They are a difficult cohort to target given they are often married, work in the unorganised sector, have limited access to technology, low-literacy levels and have limited amounts of time due to childcare responsibilities and the burden of unpaid domestic work. 

GSMA (2020) reported a gender gap of 26 percent in mobile owners and 56 percent in mobile internet users. NFHS-5 (2019-21) data showed that 79 percent of women had a bank account of which 51 percent knew about microcredit schemes yet just 11 percent had ever taken a microcredit loan. The gender gap is also prevalent in women’s access to other government financial services such as insurance and pension schemes. Budget Rani focuses on building women’s confidence and knowledge to utilise services and technology already available to them, to transfer money, link financial services, pay utility bills, EMIs, check their bank balance - putting women in control of their finances. It is unique since it is supporting women to use technology already available to them, allowing them to immediately put into practise their learnings and experience significant and sustainable technological progress. Budget Rani ko Puccho will support women and their families to increase their awareness regarding financial services and fraud. This will not only benefit the women but also their husbands. By involving husbands this initiative will overcome socio-cultural barriers that often prevent women from accessing and adopting new technology and skills. 

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

The Yugantar team has been working with unions, labour movements and feminist movements for more than 40 years. During this time, we have developed considerable understanding and investment around issues of labour, and how women’s participation is devalued, discriminated against, and largely unprotected.

The Team Lead and all roles with decision making power in the Budget Rani programme are occupied by women. However, while the core team does not come from the class-caste identity as our target group, more than 60 women (Digital Budget Ranis) are in the process of being hired directly from the communities we work with. Digital Budget Ranis are women working in unorganised sectors, or adult children of women from the unorganised sector, who work closely with us in developing and disseminating the curriculum on the ground. They are responsible for offering personal attention to help women use existing resources and technology to participate in formal banking solutions.

The programme’s approach, language, methods, and goals will be in response to the needs and challenges expressed and experienced by the communities we work with, as documented by our Digital Budget Ranis. The AI chatbot, Budget Rani ko Puccho, will be developed directly based on this data catering specifically to communities with limited access to existing tools and resources which are largely geared towards middle class people.

We view our programme and solution as a sustainable long-term programme where on-ground, in-person community advocacy and the AI-based chatbot will evolve together to increase financial inclusion of women. It is important to us that the communities we work with have opportunities to grow with this programme and eventually will lead the solution for the financial inclusion of women from unorganised sectors.   

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

Make it easier and more affordable for individuals and MSMEs to make investments and transfer payments, across geographies and across different types of platforms

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

Hyderabad, Telangana

In what country is your solution team headquartered?

  • India

What is your solution’s stage of development?

Growth: An organization with an established product, service, or business model that is rolled out in one or more communities

How many people does your solution currently serve?

Our programme has directly impacted 1000 women in the unorganised sector

Why are you applying to Solve?

Budget Rani is currently on an exciting trajectory, growing fast, impacting lots of women and receiving positive feedback from the community and funders. However, for women to achieve financial inclusion it takes a multidisciplinary approach with the collaboration of many stakeholders. 

We hope to build our network in the field of financial inclusion to establish a collaborative effort and to share knowledge and experience. Working in the not-for-profit sector we have limited access to specific skills required in order to achieve our targets. Our specific programme entails the skills and expertise from the areas of educational content design, personal finance, economics, labour unions, social sciences, community mobilisation, app development, AI, video makers and animation. 

Budget Rani specifically requires technical and business support to build effective technology and a business strategy that has the potential to reach millions of women - disrupting women’s financial inclusion. Additionally, we would like to know more about overcoming barriers in implementing technology that aims to challenge financial fraud and how to implement strategies to keep up with the fast changing tactics used in cyber crime. We also hope to meet other organisations and individuals working in this sphere to build our knowledge on the issue, learn from others and build connections to further increase our reach. Finally, MIT  Solve presents a unique opportunity to pursue a long-term vision for our programme that can scale to the extent of effectively addressing this systemic issue. 

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

  • Business Model (e.g. product-market fit, strategy & development)
  • Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design)

Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Tejaswini Madabhushi, Yugantar CEO

More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

Budget Rani is innovative as it leverages community and AI to empower overlooked demographics to use digital financial technology. By enlisting community members as trainers who physically visit target groups to demonstrate how to access online banking solutions with the technology available to them, we’ve been able to identify how to fill the knowledge gap that prevents huge demographics like women from unorganised sectors from joining formalised banking systems. This information provides the basis for creating an AI powered chatbot that can be accessed on WhatsApp. This easily scalable and specific tool will help identify a user’s problem/query, find relevant information, communicate it effectively and offer information related to financial cyber crime and fraud. Budget Rani has learnt to leverage existing technology already in the hands of women. It is futile developing new apps that most people in the unorganised sector will struggle to use or will not have access to given they do not own smartphones. Today, the vast majority of feature phones have WhatsApp inbuilt and it is an application that most people are comfortable using. 

Financial cybercrime has been recognised as a major challenge, specifically in India, nevertheless few organisations are focusing on it specifically as a barrier to financial inclusion. This is an issue that not only impacts women but cuts across social classes, impacting the elderly, children, and both men and women in the organised and unorganised sector. As cyber crimes have increased, banks and financial institutions have adopted a proactive approach to cybersecurity. Most take on a two tier approach, improving security infrastructure along with educating customers. However, a simple, easily accessible service will allow customers to be proactive in identifying fraud. This will catalyse much broader positive impacts such as increased savings, individual agency as well as reducing vulnerability and inequality. 

This simple solution could be a game changer in reducing fraud, especially fraud targeting low income, marginalised communities as well as making it safer for women to adopt new technologies - overcoming cultural barriers. This will reduce inequalities and improve the confidence of marginalised communities in adopting new technologies further reducing the digital divide. 

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

  • Year One: 45,000 women will be able to securely store, send and receive money. The ability to store, send and receive money has been identified as a prerequisite to accessing broader financial services and is recognised by the World Bank as a major aspect of financial inclusion.
  • Year Three: 200,000 women will have increased financial security for emergency, life milestones and retirement. When women have the knowledge and skills to store, send and receive money their saving capacity increases supporting them to plan for emergencies and life milestones. By using their accounts regularly and keeping them active women build a relationship with their banks helping to secure more financial services.

  • Year Five: Budget Rani ko Puccho will have 1,000,000 users increasing awareness on financial services and supporting safe and secure digital financial transfers. 

To achieve these goals Budget Rani has developed the following strategy. 

  1. An offline course will be developed with animations and audio in the local language to facilitate the learning and recall of women with varied literacy skills. The animations will include scenarios the women can relate to as well as inspirational stories to support motivation. The animations will include topics such as, the importance of saving money in the bank, how to approach banks, how to use USSD and UPI services, how to link phone numbers, Aadhar and bank accounts and online safety and fraud. 

  2. Digital Budget Ranis (community advocates), women from the unorganised sector and their local communities, will be extensively trained and involved in developing an effective information dissemination strategy. Existing resources about personal finances are often inaccessible, insufficient or irrelevant for women from unorganised sectors. Digital Budget Ranis will address this gap. Equipped with a tablet with the offline curriculum and phone number with data connection, Digital Budget Ranis will offer personalised training and individual attention as required, whether it’s answering queries or accompanying women to normalise approaching banks, Aadhar Centers and other authorities. Each Digital Budget Rani pair is expected to train and impact more than 1200 women a year. 

  3. The documentation of the Budget Ranis’ work will help us create an AI chatbot that can answer basic financial queries, offer information on existing schemes and raise awareness on cyber crime and fraud in a manner that is linguistically and culturally customised to people from unorganised sectors. The chatbot will be accessible on WhatsApp, a widely used and accessible app, and will offer chat and voice messages as modes of communication in English and regional languages.

  4. The work and goals of Budget Rani is aligned with the financial inclusion policies of the Reserve Bank of India, government bodies such as the National Payments Corporation of India (the department that created Universal Payment Interface - UPI) and other UPI platforms such as Gpay and PhonePe. In order to increase our reach and improve our products, specifically Budget Rani ko Puccho, we will partner with these organisations and local nationalised banks to target their customers and people in the community. 

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

  • 5. Gender Equality
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 10. Reduced Inequalities

What is your theory of change?


Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new application of an existing technology

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?


How many people work on your solution team?

Team lead: 1 part time. Monitoring and evaluation lead: 1 part time. Community advocates: 40 full-time. Technology lead: 1 part time. Community coordinators: 2 full-time. Workshop trainers: 2 part-time. Content creators: 2 part-time

How long have you been working on your solution?

2 years

Your Business Model & Funding

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

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)

What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?

Budget Rani aims to become a social enterprise for programme sustainability. It aims to form public-private partnerships with nationalised banks, government bodies and UPI providers. Firstly, Budget Rani will provide nationalised banks with community advocates to work in the local areas they serve. The community advocates will work to increase the bank’s reach and the revenue and usage of zero balance accounts. Women have been identified by the Reserve Bank of India as representing a growth opportunity as they are an underserved customer base with high savings revenue. Secondly, we will partner with the Reserve Bank of India and the State Bank of India to increase the reach and services of Budget Rani ko Puccho across the country. Thirdly, we aim to sell our services to UPI providers, targeting women to adopt their services. Currently, many UPI providers have community advocates supporting small businesses to adopt UPI. However, they have a greater focus on men. We will use our expertise and female community advocates to reach women. 

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

Budget Rani has recently won a competitive grant of $120,000. This is in addition to $40,000 received from the US Consulate General, Hyderabad in 2021 and $8,000 from Dartmouth College in 2022.

Solution Team

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