Project Details


Mobile scheme rewards India’s low-income spenders with goods and services

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  • Economic Empowerment
  • Data
  • Mobile

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India reported this year that the number of mobile subscribers has reached one billion in India. At the same time, the country grapples with inequality. In 2012, wealth held by billionaires accounted for nearly 10% of national income.

“Hard work does not equal results,” says Akanksha Hazari, founder of mPaani, a startup that seeks to address the imbalance by linking mobile phone use to consumer spending and charitable gifts for India’s poor. 

When a user goes to a partner shop to buy necessities like rice, they leave a missed call on the mPaani number, and receive a call back from the mPaani call centre. Each purchase leads to reward points, for example a bag of rice that costs 500 Rupees earns the buyer 500 points. These can then be spent on over 200 reward items, from healthcare to electricity credit to mobile data packs to train tickets, school fees support and school supplies.  

The system has its detractors. It’s questionable how much empowerment consumer goods provide to those who still can’t afford them outside the programme, while the scheme also benefits commercial companies who market their goods to low-income consumers. 

At the same time, mPaani delivers real – if short-term – support to both local businesses, which gain new data on their operations, and consumers, who are able to improve their quality of life through goods and services that are otherwise hard to come by.  

Hazari says that hundreds of stores have joined the programme since its launch in 2013, and that her ultimate goal is to gather data on low-income demographics to enable them to join the digital revolution and access loans and insurance they don’t qualify for because of lack of credit data.  

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Image courtesy of ILO in Asia and the Pacific

Last updated: 03rd of October, 2016

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