Our Private Healthcare System’s COVID-19 response can make or break India’s future

Our Private Healthcare System’s COVID-19 response can make or break India’s future

India has a mixed healthcare system, with majority of healthcare services being provided by the private sector. This accentuates the importance of private health care enterprises to partake in providing smaller and district level health providers with the support to continue functioning during economic upheaval.

Public health and economic experts stressed the importance of organising and fortifying the private healthcare system’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. They unanimously believed that investing in streamlining and strengthening the public healthcare system today can prepare the country for the long haul.

Check the key insights from our webinar ‘Strengthening the public health system is in our enlightened self interest’ and Samhita’s take on it.

Protecting human capital to emerge from the crisis

Protecting human capital to emerge from the crisis

Corporate leaders recommend fortified social security provisions for gig economy workers. Business leaders called for reimagined approaches to social security and employer-employee relationships in the gig economy in light of the gaps that the COVID-19 crisis has revealed.

Small-Scale Financial Literacy Projects: Catalysts for Transformation

Small-Scale Financial Literacy Projects: Catalysts for Transformation

Financial literacy has long been recognized as a key driver of economic growth and prosperity. This blog delves into the urgent requirement for financial literacy programs in India, especially in the backdrop of remarkable economic progress. Despite the broader accessibility of financial services, a substantial portion of the population lacks fundamental financial knowledge. The blog underscores how these programs can empower women, stimulate entrepreneurship, mitigate debt-related pitfalls, and contribute to economic advancement. It also examines the difficulties encountered by smaller-scale initiatives and draws valuable insights from REVIVE’s endeavors in promoting comprehensive financial empowerment. 



India’s financial system combines formal and informal elements, yet a significant portion of the population lacks basic financial access despite impressive economic growth. India has made notable progress in improving financial inclusion, leading to the creation of millions of new bank accounts. However, mere access to financial services falls short. Often overlooked is the essential aspect of financial literacy, with a substantial portion of the population lacking even a basic understanding of the financial system.

  1. Empowering Women: Women in India often play a pivotal role in managing the household budget and making financial decisions. Equipping them with financial literacy tools is crucial as it empowers them to make informed choices, not only about daily expenses but also about savings and investments. This, in turn, can lead to greater financial security for their families.
  2. Fostering Entrepreneurship: Financial literacy is a powerful tool for promoting entrepreneurship, particularly among women. When women entrepreneurs have access to foundational financial knowledge and are provided with small-scale business opportunities, they can create a significant impact on their families and communities. This can lead to economic growth and poverty reduction on a larger scale.
  3. Avoiding Debt Traps: Lack of financial literacy often leads individuals to make poor financial decisions, such as taking on high-interest loans or falling prey to unscrupulous financial practices. With better financial education, people are more likely to make sound financial choices, thus avoiding debt traps and financial distress.
  4. Enhancing Economic Growth: A financially literate population is better equipped to contribute to the overall economic growth of the country. When people understand the importance of saving, investing, and responsible financial management, they are more likely to participate in the formal economy, leading to increased economic stability and development.

Financial literacy in


 Small-scale financial literacy projects in India encounter a multitude of challenges that can hinder their mission to empower individuals with essential financial knowledge. These challenges include:

  1. Limited Funding: Securing adequate financial resources to sustain and expand their initiatives is a constant struggle. Small projects often rely on donations, grants, or volunteer efforts, making it challenging to maintain consistent operations.
  2. Lack of Awareness: Many small-scale projects struggle to reach their target audience due to limited marketing budgets. Building awareness about the importance of financial literacy and the availability of these programs is a significant hurdle.
  3. Behavioral Change: Encouraging individuals to adopt better financial practices and break existing habits is complex and time-consuming. It requires ongoing support and reinforcement.
  4. Evaluation and Impact Measurement: Demonstrating the tangible impact of financial literacy programs is crucial for securing future funding and expanding the reach, but it can be resource-intensive.
  5. Scalability: Expanding their initiatives to serve more people is a goal for most small projects, but scaling up while maintaining quality and impact is a delicate balancing act.

Rural couple making digital payment


REVIVE’s commitment to empowering small-scale projects through transformative initiatives for financial inclusion and literacy has undoubtedly yielded valuable lessons that can be applied to drive larger-scale development. Here are some key lessons that can be drawn from REVIVE’s efforts:

  1. Localized Strategies: Recognizing the diversity of India, these projects emphasize the need for localized strategies and language-specific materials to effectively reach all segments of the population.
  2. Partnerships: Collaborations with local NGOs, government agencies, and financial institutions enhance the reach and impact of these projects.
  3. Technology Integration: Leveraging technology, such as mobile banking and digital financial tools, can greatly enhance financial literacy efforts, particularly in remote areas.
  4. Long-Term Commitment: Sustainable change requires a long-term commitment. These projects emphasize ongoing support and follow-up to ensure that financial literacy gains are retained and utilized.

Small-scale financial literacy initiatives are serving as a cornerstone in the empowerment of individuals, with a particular focus on women and communities across India. These projects are actively tackling the obstacles associated with financial literacy and offering tailored education and resources, ultimately making significant contributions to broader development and transformation efforts.


The REVIVE Alliance – Creating A Sustainable Future For India’s Informal Sector

The REVIVE Alliance – Creating A Sustainable Future For India’s Informal Sector


India’s informal sector makes up a significant portion of the country’s workforce ~43% and provides employment opportunities for millions, especially those from the marginalized communities. 

However, despite its huge contribution to the economy, the informal sector operates without formal recognition. Currently only ~16% of all MSMEs have access to formal credit, creating a huge credit demand for working capital and capacity building support. This gap is further exacerbated for women, with 92.1% of women-owned MSMEs being unregistered / informal, and are therefore unable to access formal finance. 

As majority of the micro enterprises are either New to Credit (NTC) or New to Income(NTI), they are not deemed to be creditworthy, and are considered “high-risk customers” by formal lending institutions (LIs). 

This lack of support leaves individuals vulnerable to economic shocks, hindering their growth and preventing them from realizing their full potential.

Informal workers, including micro-entrepreneurs, have a huge potential to contribute to India’s economic growth, social progress, inclusive growth, and reduced poverty.

Samhita Revive Alliance clients

The REVIVE Alliance: A Catalyst for Change

Over 80% of solo, nano and micro entrepreneurs are either NTI, NTC, or New to Formal Credit (NTFC), have not completed basic KYC, GST, and other formalization activities, and do not have access to diverse markets. 

This shows the dire need for support from the private, philanthropic, financial and public sectors to band together to bridge this credit gap, and enable the rapid formalization and growth of these entrepreneurs. 

To support these efforts, Samhita-CGF founded the REVIVE Alliance, a collaborative platform that aims to increase incomes, improve livelihood opportunities, and enable the formalization of micro-entrepreneurs, making them more resilient to potential future shocks.

Through a multi-year, multi-intervention approach, REVIVE addresses critical challenges faced by informal workers, providing them with comprehensive support across 5 key interventions.


     1 . Financial Literacy and Inclusion

REVIVE focuses on enhancing financial literacy, facilitating access to formal credit through the Returnable Grant, as well as offering savings and investment support. 

Training programs and workshops are conducted to enhance financial literacy and promote savings habits. Additionally, REVIVE collaborates with financial institutions to facilitate access to formal credit and capital, catalyzed by the Returnable Grant that facilitates a graduation model. 

By enabling participants to navigate the financial landscape, REVIVE paves the way for financial inclusion and improved financial stability. 


     2. Skills Development and Job Progression

Limited skills and job opportunities often result in low wages for informal sector workers. REVIVE addresses this challenge by offering skill development programs that upskill / reskill job seekers and entrepreneurs. 

By partnering with training institutions, sector skills councils, and industry experts, REVIVE is able to deliver skilling programs to enhance technical and management skills, as well as entrepreneurial capabilities.

Woman artisan painting a pot


3. Enterprise Strengthening and Market Linkages

REVIVE aims to bridge this gap by providing enterprise development support and facilitating market linkages, so as to bridge the network gap and equip micro-entrepreneurs with the resources they need to thrive. 

Through these connections, micro-entrepreneurs are able to scale their businesses and expand their customer base.


     4. Digital Empowerment

REVIVE bridges the digital-divide through digital literacy and empowering participants with the necessary digital skills, covering topics like digital safety, financial tools as well as platforms that can help them with employment opportunities.  

Rural man and woman making digital payment


     5. Social Protection

REVIVE unlocks government schemes and facilitates access to affordable healthcare, insurance, pension schemes, trade-specific benefits and other social security benefits that provide a safety net for informal sector workers for income security and protection against unforeseen risks.


Fostering an Enabling Environment

REVIVE brings together a whole ecosystem of players – the government, corporates,, foundations, financial institutions, nonprofits, and other such stakeholders to create an enabling environment. 

Blended finance tools, such as the Returnable Grant, play a crucial role in providing NTC and NTI workers with access to capital on favorable terms, allowing them to invest in their businesses, scale their operations, skilling, get formal loans, etc. 

Through the co-creation of public goods, such as a pre-credit score, REVIVE aims to enable micro-entrepreneurs to access formal finance easily. The pre-credit score, backed by a credit guarantee, can be used by financial institutions to offer credit to first time borrowers, acting as a proxy for credit ratings and proof of ability to repay.


Impact and Potential for Scale

The REVIVE Alliance has the potential to create a transformative impact on the lives of millions of informal workers. By enhancing their livelihoods through improving access to finance, and enabling skills development, REVIVE aims to uplift micro-entrepreneurs and drive socio-economic progress. 

The ripple effect it can create extends beyond the immediate participants, positively impacting their families and communities.

With an initial target of impacting 10 million individuals, the REVIVE Alliance aims to scale its interventions and reach an even larger segment of the informal sector in the coming years.

By empowering informal workers through financial literacy, skills development, enterprise strengthening, and digital empowerment, REVIVE aims to build a thriving future where every individual has the opportunity to succeed and reach their full potential.


Women At Work In New India

Women At Work In New India

In India, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected the lives and livelihoods of working women compared to working men. To understand the extent of this impact on women workers, Samhita-Collective Good Foundation(CGF), commissioned by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in India, undertook a study that analysed the pandemic experiences of thirty women workers and entrepreneurs across professions in India. The findings and recommendations of the study are presented in this report.

The research study adopted a qualitative approach and exploratory design. Furthermore, it looked at the challenges through an intersectional lens, since the pandemic has affected women differently based on their demographic, geographical and socio-economic backgrounds. While for some women, economic and social recovery has been relatively easier and faster, given their social location, networks, skill sets, nature of their trade, access to digital and other infrastructure, most women continue to struggle to bounce back.

Prior to the primary data collection conducted on field across the ten cohorts and five states the women belonged to, certain themes were identified from a secondary review of existing literature. Thereafter, several of these themes were corroborated through a thematic analysis of the narratives presented by thirty women participants.

Four major themes emerged from this research, which are listed as below:

  • Challenges faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Social and systemic support availed during the crisis
  • Adaptation and transition in livelihood choices during the pandemic
  • Aspirations and ambitions of women workers

This research study advocates using the learnings and evidence from the women’s narratives to inform policy and programme design. With an intended target audience consisting of private sector, development funders and social purpose organizations, this research serves to be a call for action for commitments to support women in the workforce and in business value chains. In aligning its recommendations with the ILO’s Decent Work framework and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs), as a way forward, this report also proposes collaborative models such as building large multi-stakeholder and multi-cause alliances to deliver at scale, innovate and integrate core competencies of all development stakeholders, to ensure continuous and sustained support for women to enter, sustain and grow in the workforce. In this report, as a way forward, Samhita-CGF proposes the ‘SACCI model’ – stakeholder Alliance Creation for Collaborative Impact, given the problem’s magnitude, complexity, and urgency. An Alliance will bring together different development stakeholders such as the government, private sector, institutional funders, development experts and social purpose organisations to plug in the gaps in the current system and actively promote and support women in the workforce.

Entrepreneurs with Disabilities

Entrepreneurs with Disabilities

The COVID – 19 lockdown has adversely impacted the most vulnerable sections of society, such as informal workers, farmers, street vendors, gig economy workers, etc. Even among the sections of society hit the hardest, Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) have been among the worst affected due to an intersection of circumstances which include economic vulnerability, reduced mobility even in regular times and other hindrances which resulted from the lockdown.

Additionally, as entrepreneurs look to recover from these economic shocks, PwDs find it harder to obtain capital to start new enterprises or for working capital for existing enterprises. ATPAR is an organization that looks to create an enabling ecosystem for entrepreneurs with disabilities. ATPAR works with Entrepreneurs with Disabilities & their family members for their economic empowerment, social inclusion and rehabilitation by training them through NSIC Delhi on entrepreneurship development and mentoring them for 4 to 6 months to enable them to start, sustain and scale their entrepreneurial ventures. 

ATPAR’s NEDAR (Network of Entrepreneurs with Disabilities for Assistance and Rehabilitation) provides business mentorship, handholding support, financial and market linkages to the entrepreneurs over and above the entrepreneurship development training. Many of these entrepreneurs needed financial assistance to restart business and recover from the economic impact of the pandemic.

REVIVE has been working with 35 such entrepreneurs in Delhi – NCR, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Puducherry to provide financial assistance to fulfil their working capital needs, make asset purchases, etc. They have received zero – cost finance in the form of returnable grants (RGs) of INR 20,000 / 40,000 from REVIVE which would be repaid over the course of 1 year. The RG carries a moral obligation to repay as opposed to a legal obligation. During this period, all entrepreneurs will continue to receive ATPAR’s in-depth support through the NEDAR network as well.

Women Micro-Entrepreneurs

Women Micro-Entrepreneurs

COVID – 19 has disproportionately affected women, owing to the compounded effect of generally earning less, saving less and holding more insecure jobs. While women’s participation in the labour force has been in steady decline for more than a decade, the livelihood impact of the pandemic has put 4 out of 10 women out of the workforce. In addition, their situation is made much more complicated by additional factors. One of the major issues is that poorer women entrepreneurs face significant barriers to accessing livelihoods assistance and capital due to factors such as little or no credit history, lack of collateral, etc.

Despite women entrepreneurs’ excellent repayment records when running micro–businesses, they are not often graduated to larger individual or business loans beyond microfinance programs. Thus the share of women served declines as microfinance institutions diversify or transform into banks. Women are less conspicuous in programs with larger loan sizes that could support higher levels of business development. 

Financial institutions can proactively and profitably engage with women entrepreneurs as clients. Reports demonstrate successes where this has been achieved in ways that benefit both the creditors and their expanded female clientele. Understanding the depth of the problem, REVIVE was built to offer comprehensive solutions by partnering with three different organisations: Arthimpact Digital Loans, SEWA, and Chaitanya. 

One of the areas of its focus has been on providing returnable grants to 569 micro-entrepreneurs in the customer network of Arthimpact Digital Loans (Arth), an NBFC which provides collateral-free credit solutions to small enterprises, farmers and micro-entrepreneurs. 96% of the cohort supported by REVIVE are women entrepreneurs engaged in a wide range of occupations including agriculture, dairy, handicrafts, catering and small restaurants, tailoring, grocery stores, e – rickshaws among others. They are spread out over 7 districts in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan.

Depending on their needs, the entrepreneurs were provided with either of:

  1. Zero-cost working capital support in the form of a returnable grant of INR 20,000 / 30,000 over a 1-year tenure or 
  2. For entrepreneurs requiring bridge financing during the devastating second wave of the COVID – 19 pandemic, zero-cost working capital support in the form of RG of INR 5,000 over 9 months but with a generous deferment period of 3 months

Another area of interest to REVIVE were initiatives of SEWA: RUDI – Rural Distribution Initiative, a production company owned and managed by small-scale women farmers, and Kamala, a food joint, providing nutritious dishes to its customers using millets and fresh produce procured directly from farmers. As the pandemic soared, the sales at both RUDI and Kamla sharply fell. The only way to revive the situation was by providing working capital to the entities to resume/accelerate the business operations. In view of the situation, Samhita/CGF supported SEWA in setting up the ‘Livelihood Recovery and Resilience Fund’:  a returnable grant of INR 25,42,373 lakhs (after TDS deduction) to support the end-to-end production process of RUDI and Kamala.

In addition, REVIVE is currently working with Chaitanya India, an organization at the forefront of the micro-credit movement for underserved women to provide affordable finance in the form of zero-cost returnable grants to 125 women in Vasai and Mankhurd areas of Mumbai. The women are engaged in a series of occupations from fruit/vegetable vending and selling fish (Vasai) to beauty services, tailoring, jewelry making, snack making, etc. (Mankhurd). The women have received access to finance amounting to INR 15,000 / 20,000 depending on their occupations and would have to repay on a monthly basis over one year. Chaitanya India’s model for financial support is actioned through a strong grassroots network of SHGs and clusters which are federated to provide financial services and training.

Women Artisans

Women Artisans

COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown severely impacted artisans across the country. A KPMG study estimated that approximately 7.3 million people depend on handicraft and allied activities for livelihood. The handicraft and handloom sector in India is a Rs 24,300-crore industry and contributes nearly Rs 10,000 crore annually in export earnings. 

According to a survey by Dun and Bradstreet, 82 per cent of 250 MSMEs that were surveyed, said that Covid-19 had hit them hard. A Reserve Bank of India report states that MSMEs are one of the five worst affected sectors in India. Artisans and weavers form even a smaller number within the industry that is largely unorganised.

Since the lockdown, artisans witnessed production come to standstill. Huge unsold inventory piled up, while sales opportunities through exhibitions and through orders either came to a stop or dwindled quite low. Added to that, they had no working capital to reinvest. Some of the artisans reported their savings drying up and not having enough to meet the daily expenses. 

Most artisans have an important job of carrying forward and keeping alive the art. However, with so many additional problems during the pandemic, there were possibilities that many would look for alternative forms of livelihood. 

In order to revive these severely affected groups of artisans, Samhita-CGF with support from MSDF, S&P Global, and Vinati Organics, introduced Returnable Grants for women artisans. It is pertinent to mention that most of these women artisans are usually remotely located and spread across rural areas. Therefore, social enterprises take up the role of connecting these artisans, training them and skilling/upskilling them. It is also the enterprise’s role in such cases to source good quality raw materials and trains the artisans to produce high-quality products while simultaneously ensuring market linkages and sales. 

Identifying the role of an enterprise in bringing together artisans and the subsequent impact they can have on the lives and livelihoods of these artisans, Samhita-CGF collaborated with social enterprises like TISSER and SEWA Trade Facilitation Centre (STFC) as an effort to revive their livelihood within the REVIVE Alliance. 

The Returnable Grants have filled the gap of working capital for these enterprises. Once there was increased access to working capital, reinvestments in products and diversification into newer products like masks were undertaken by these enterprises. This also meant that slowly artisans could earn back their livelihood while upskilling themselves by making newer products. Products were specifically designed for festivals to increase the number of sales using the working capital given to these enterprises. Once the sales happen, the client money is revolved into the pool of returnable grants to impact more women artisans. 

Within the REVIVE Alliance, nearly 1200 women artisans including warli and pottery in Maharashtra, and textile artisans in Gujarat are being supported. Not only did these women artisans witness an economic revival as the orders increased, but they also underwent training and capacity building workshops to enhance their skills and diversify their products. Their average earnings have started showing an upward trend of slow and steady increase. 

Not only is the REVIVE Alliance supporting these social enterprises to enhance the lives of these women artisans, but are also safeguarding the traditional art of warli and pottery. 

In addition, the REVIVE Alliance aims to protect producer artisans directly linked to its ecosystem. Producer artisans are upskilled through distance learning to enable them to start producing the “Karuna ” range of products from their homes. Karuna products include face masks with designs, wrist bands, dining table mats with embroidered stories, embroidered bookmarks, embroidered handkerchief, tassel, keychains, hangings, natural fiber wristbands, coasters, and trivets among others. Market linkages (online and offline) are also provided to sell these products and thus ensure continued livelihood for the artisans during and post the lockdown. The project is implemented by Greenkraft Industree in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu. So far, 400 women artisans have undergone the training programs. The project envisages improving the avenues for the financial stability of women artisans and providing them access to market and financial linkages.

Street Vendors

Street Vendors

When a nationwide lockdown was announced, it immediately had a harsh effect on street vendors. An almost empty city without people stepping out of their homes meant that the city’s vendors immediately lost their source of income and were confronted with hunger and deprivation.

For women street vendors, the vulnerability doubled in such cases as they faced sharp repercussions after completely losing their livelihoods in the wake of the pandemic. A study shows that in the initial months of lockdown roughly 90% of vendors lost work, and even when the lockdown was lifted, recovery was slow, and it has not come back to pre-lockdown times. Women street vendors suffered most because they lacked access to assets and savings due to the lack of work and earnings. Most of these women street vendors used their savings to feed themselves and their families. Given this backdrop, restarting livelihood has become even more difficult but also the need of the hour. 

Across the country, many vendors have openly talked about issues in accessing loans since they are not recognised as ‘legal’ while also reporting a slowdown in the processing of loans. 

In the wake of these pressing problems, Samhita-CGF along with Brihati Foundation and S&P Global is supporting SEWA in reviving the livelihoods of 350 women street vendors. Spread across Gujarat, these women street vendors have received Returnable Grants within the REVIVE Alliance to be used as working capital to revive their livelihoods and tackle the cash crunch within their occupation. 

Although they are in the process of slowly recovering from this crisis, it is critical to take action to remove the barriers that are leading to their increased vulnerability. Returnable grants act as a 0% interest loan to these women which they have invested in buying raw materials for their vending business. However, there is an existing social stigma that these street vendors have to face as they are quite often seen as illegal occupants of public space. SEWA reported how these women are frequently targeted, harassed and evicted by officials of gated society, police, and sometimes government officials. 

For so many vendors, their businesses have fallen due to a perceived fear among people that the disease will spread more easily in markets. It is through continuous efforts by SEWA within the REVIVE Alliance that gradually the corporators/government officials have started to support these street vendors and their access to space for vending is not being denied anymore by the police. Challenges of entering gated communities/societies still persist, however, with enough vaccinated street vendors, this picture might change soon enough. 

Overwhelming demand from street vendors remains for support to resume working. Easier and faster access to capital and permission to work without harassment is essential to expedite recovery for vendors. Therefore, as a recovery model, Samhita-CGF along with Brihati Foundation and S&P Global is supporting SEWA in reviving the livelihood of 350 women street vendors by giving them returnable grants as a form of 0% interest loan.