The Power To Invest: Helping Women Entrepreneurs Find Freedom Globally
“Empowerment begins with access.”
That is the mission and the tagline of MoneyOnMobile, India’s largest mobile payment platform, now in a new partnership with the Kalighat Society aimed at helping more than 75,000 low-income women in the Kolkata area become financially literate.
The lessons from this rapidly expanding enterprise on financial privacy, independence and entrepreneurship can be applied everywhere.
“Women want financial privacy,” says Harold Montgomery, CEO and Chairman of MoneyOn Mobile, based in Dallas. “Our business is creating earning opportunities for Indian women and control over their earnings for the first time in their lives.”
Operating in 600 cities around India, the for-profit digital payment system changes the lives of women and increases their prosperity beyond the “handmade crafts model of many non-government operations in developing countries,” says Montgomery, who has spent 30 years in the payment industry in the U.S. and abroad.
“India currently ranks 70 out of 77 nations on the Female Entrepreneurship Index, but moving up that index might not be as difficult as it seems,” according to LiveMint.
“Certainly, long-term, structural reforms are needed but in the short term there are a few examples from around the world that indicate how targeted policy measures can deliver specific goals even when the rest of the infrastructure (such as ease of doing business, access to credit facilities and affordable childcare) may not be in place.”
As he was preparing to leave for the airport for another trip to Delhi and Calcutta, India, Montgomery says, “The capitalist model is the right model for this. We are a public company.”
Women who want to help other women entrepreneurs find financial independence, can consider investing in companies like MoneyOnMobile, Montgomery says, noting the rapid demonetization in India.
MoneyOnMobile “plugs into women’s networks in India,” and it has become an important financial resource of independence for so many. He says he has found that in India, “one woman brings along five others,” as the country socially is matriarchal, even as most all the external systems are male-dominated.
Sales agents are both men and women,, but for the women who run MoneyOnMobile storefronts, it offers them the unique opportunity to have private, financial independence, sometimes for the first and only time in their lives.
“With 70 percent of the urban population financially excluded,” without access to bank accounts or financial services, MoneyOnMobile allows users to have digital financial transactions that are password protected, safe and are not cash-based.
“MoneyOnMobile is one of a cohort of payment companies which are working to tap into the growing digital payment market in India. Montgomery previously worked with digital payments in the U.S., discovered the Indian opportunity in 2011 and started building investment in 2012. It raised an initial $10M in venture funding and $1.5M in debt financing last year,” according to IDG Connect.
Having just reached its five-year anniversary of business, MoneyOnMobile has grown 86 percent in domestic remittance in one month, Montgomery says. “Our five- year vision is to grow like crazy.”
Today the company is connected to 200 million Indian customers, in a country of 2 billion. In 2017, the company has 340,000 agents in India and 8-10 million monthly users. The goal in five years is to have 100 million monthly users, Montgomery says.
This year MoneyOnMobile has volume of $60 million a month in transactions and plans to increase “ten-fold” in five years.
“We need to connect this population to the digital economy,” Montgomery says, including Facebook, Amazon, Google and Paypal. “We need to make these services available to these cash customers, so they can go to a location, pay in cash and have it credited to an account.”
One very positive use of the MoneyOnMobile system is with Kahn Academy, Montgomery says, to have lessons delivered digitally to cell phones, make access to education possible anywhere in India.
It is really powerful that we can do that,” Montgomery says.
On the philanthropic side, Gail Bradley, vice president at Northern Trust Co., and a Take The Lead Leadership Ambassador, has been working for 14 years with a private foundation that has given more than $50 million in individual loans in a micro-financing effort in Africa over the past 30 years.
This independent charitable work has had enormous effect on the lives of local business owners able to create and sustain financial success. Mobile access has also played a large role in the individual’s financial success.
Like Montgomery, Bradley connects to the sense of power and entrepreneurial goals achieved by the small business operators the foundation she manages by assisting with funding.
In Africa, with “mobile wallets,” Bradley says, individuals are not only provided access to training, financing and technology, but they “help people get organized and dramatically increase their income.” Sometimes the increase is as much as ten-fold in one year, she says.
That is not only life-changing, but culture-changing.
According to the results of Mastercard’s “inaugural Index of Women Entrepreneurs, Uganda at 34.8 percent) and Botswana at 34.6 percent rank first and second in the world with the highest percentages of women entrepreneurs, driven mostly by necessity,” according to BizCommunity.
While those numbers are high, women entrepreneurs in Africa are not necessarily highly supported in other areas measured by the index. “The Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs tracks female entrepreneurs’ ability to capitalize on opportunities granted through various supporting conditions within their local environments,” according to BizCommunity.
Those areas include “Women’s Advancement Outcomes or the degree of bias against women as workforce participants, political and business leaders, as well as the financial strength and entrepreneurial inclination of women; Knowledge Assets and Financial Assets, or the degree of access women have to basic financial services, advanced knowledge assets and support for small and medium enterprises; and Supporting Entrepreneurial Conditions or overall perceptions on the ease on conducting business locally, quality of local governance, women’s perception of safety levels and cultural perception of women’s household financial influence.”
Still, programs on both the business and philanthropic sides are able to make a huge difference.
The bonus, Bradley says, is, “One of the most wonderful things about this is it is primarily supports women.”