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Ajay Desai: Enabling Access to Financial Services in Rural India

Ajay Desai: Enabling Access to Financial Services in Rural India

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Ajay Desai, the chief operating officer, agribusiness of Spice Money. Let’s learn about what’s happening at Spice Money and how Ajay is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Hi Ajay, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Spice Money?

Ajay: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Frugal Innovations for Financial Inclusion (FI4FI) is my motto and mission. I help enable easy access to financial services for Indians, especially from villages. Entrepreneurs in rural India, especially the women, struggle to obtain enough credit to run a viable business, be it farming, dairy, or other enterprises. Credit is the most vital external input for them as it enables them to convert other resources like time, skill, and raw material into valuable products which become a source of income. Besides credit, they need other financial products including insurance, investment, and pension.

Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?

Ajay: I am inspired by Dr. Varghese Kurien, a visionary, whose work transformed India from a milk-deficient nation to the world's largest producer of milk. He famously said, “India's place in the world would come from the partnership between the wisdom of its rural people and skill of its professionals.” Almost all of my frugal innovations, like ‘Yes Money’ remittance service, ‘Yes Leap’ mudra loans, and dairy ecosystem financial services, are based on such partnerships.

Spiffy: What would you say is the impact of your work?

Ajay: ‘Yes Money’ has been adopted by many other banks now. Collectively, it caters to more than 20 million persons, mainly migrant workers. About half a million urban youth earn a major part of their livelihood by offering this service to their customers. The ‘Yes Leap’ model has been replicated by many other financial institutions. Collectively, they serve about ten million poor families living in rural and semi-urban areas.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Ajay—it’s been an honor!

The word intrapreneur best describes Ajay Desai’s professional career of over 25 years across various sectors. He conceives, creates, and nurtures unique initiatives within big organizations. The overarching approach of his banking career is Frugal Innovations for Financial Inclusion (FI4FI), leveraging existing outreach of external partners to provide financial services to underbanked sections through a win-win-win model. (First published on the Ladderworks website on September 21, 2023.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Shikha Tandon. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.