For over a decade, IIM Ahmedabad’s CIIE.CO has been working on incubation, acceleration, and seed-funding initiatives for early-stage entrepreneurs. The Financial Inclusion Lab (FI Lab), under the aegis of CIIE.CO’s Bharat Inclusion Initiative (BII), is a platform to accelerate startups building fintech, skilling and livelihood solutions for the underserved segment of Bharat.
Livelihoods have been disrupted, access to capital choked, and savings have been eroded amid the pandemic. Simultaneously, newer digital infrastructure is taking hold, and innovative products and engagement models are being developed. Given the urgent need to build financial resilience for the lower-and-middle-income (LMI) segments, the one-of-its-kind Bharat Inclusion Initiative is back with its 5th edition of FI Lab, to support startups aiming to create an impact through scalable, innovative technology solutions that serve India’s LMI segments.
What The 5th Edition Has To Offer
Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, J. P. Morgan, Metlife Foundation, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and the Omidyar Network, FI Lab offers diverse solutions and customized support to each selected startup including catalytic capital of up to INR 25 lakhs for Product Development and Market Validation. The other customized offerings include:
Field Studies (Led by financial inclusion experts for consumer & market insights)
Portfolio Support (Up to a year of providing market, channel, and investor connects)
Mentoring (Through clinics with LMI-focused practitioners and domain experts)
Visibility (Through platforms and networks)
Service Partners (For cloud, marketing, and other support worth over INR 50 lakhs)
All this support has been designed to help test the startup’s key assumptions, ascertain product-market fit, and set up the business for a successful scale-up. The Financial Inclusion Lab lays special emphasis on building for resilience and relevance in the post-COVID world.
Priyanka Chopra, COO, CIIE.CO, says, “With over 75M additional people falling into poverty due to COVID-induced economic recession, the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on the LMI segments, reversing several years of progress on this front. Identifying and supporting fintechs that expand access to financial services and livelihood opportunities, thereby improving the financial health of these communities, has never been more urgent.”
Covid-19 has significantly impacted lower-income communities, including segments such as micro-businesses, informal workers, farmers, and women. In collaboration with MSC Consulting (an international digital financial inclusion firm), FI Lab aims to accelerate select early-stage startups focused on developing tech-enabled solutions that can be used to benefit such underserved communities.
What kind of Startups are being sought
The program will be supporting technology solutions that help in improving the financial health and capabilities of underserved communities, with the potential to impact at scale. Desirable solutions include innovative flow-based credit models, underwriting methods that leverage social behaviours, embedded fintech, models leveraging SHGs, and other social capital aggregators to enhance women's access and usage of financial services, LMI-focused Insurtechs, and skilling and livelihood solutions that leverage fintech for unique value addition.
Through the FI Lab Accelerator, Bharat Inclusion Champions Program, and Bharat Inclusion Seed Fund, BII has already supported 40 startups. Startups supported by the initiative have cumulatively raised follow-on funding of over $70 million from marquee investors and have served 20 million individuals and 13,500 MSMEs since joining the program.
The Bharat Inclusion Initiative invites applicants to be a part of Financial Inclusion Lab’s fourth cohort - up to 10 startups will be selected for this 20-week long acceleration program.