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Changing women's relationship with their finances

Today many community and content-driven financial services focus solely on women's needs and prepare them for eventualities such as the pandemic-induced lockdown

The modern Indian woman is fiercely ambitious and has clear lifestyle and travel goals. And yet there is a glaring gap between savings and investment. Photo: iSTOCKPHOTO
The modern Indian woman is fiercely ambitious and has clear lifestyle and travel goals. And yet there is a glaring gap between savings and investment. Photo: iSTOCKPHOTO

38-year-old Supriya Jain grew up in a close-knit community in Jaipur. Her parents separated when she was very young, and her mom raised her single-handedly. “I draw my strength from my mother, and I think I learnt independence from her,” says Jain. All the courage that she imbibed from her mom was tested when she lost her husband. She was going through one of the IVF cycles at that time. After several failed attempts, which were emotionally, physically and financially draining, Jain opted for surrogacy. After the birth of her son, she quit her job and decided to work from home as an independent content consultant. Through the years, Jain realised the need for a financial cushion during the tough situations that life constantly threw at her. “And the best person to provide that is yourself,” she says.

Today, she is a successful entrepreneur and is able to straddle work with the needs of her two-year-old son. To manage the finances, she enlisted the help of Basis, which positions itself as the country’s first digital community and content-driven financial service, focusing solely on women’s needs. “Like any other relationship, the ones guiding you on your money are important and need a ton of trust,” says Jain.

Today there are many community-led platforms that help women address their financial pressure points. Finsnap, for instance, spreads personal finance awareness among teenage girls to optimise expenses. Then there is LXME, another financial platform exclusively for women. In an interview with Mint in October, 2020, the founder of LXME, Priti Rathi Gupta talked about the need for such platforms. “Women are raised in an environment where they are made to believe that investments and financial matters are complicated and a man’s domain,” she said.

Gupta further stated that it is only when faced with unforeseen situations like sudden death of an earning member or a divorce that women really understand the importance of having a financial plan. "While financial inclusion and literacy rates in India are very low for both men and women, it’s the urban women population that lags far behind the urban male population. There has to be a larger push towards making women financially aware and helping them with their money journey, given the changing lifestyle dynamics,” she said.

Basis too seeks to burst myths and create financially-aware women consumers, who have access to the right resources in order to be able to ask the right kind of questions. Founded by Hena Mehta and Dipika Jaikishan, this mobile app caters to a market of nearly 100 million urban women and claims to have seen a 140 percent growth in its active users on its app-based platform during the pandemic-induced lockdown.

Surveys conducted by the team among 500 urban women, aged 24 to 45, reveal several insights about this segment. India, today, has the largest population of working women in the world. Their needs are constantly evolving, with some choosing to stay single for longer, while others participating more in household financial decisions. The modern Indian woman is fiercely ambitious and has clear lifestyle and travel goals. And yet there is a glaring gap between savings and investment. “Women have the money to invest but they don’t know enough, and are looking for ways to learn and start. Their lack of knowledge and low confidence are barriers that need to be overcome,” states the survey. It is to boost confidence levels that Basis has created a repository of content, research and suggestions on its app and blog.

The for-profit organisation has roots in Mehta’s own journey. Raised in Bengaluru, she pursued computer science engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, after which she worked at Goldman Sachs. Around 2014, when she witnessed the rise of startups in India, she came back to work at Ezetap. But soon after Mehta opted for an MBA at Wharton business school to understand the intricacies of running a company. “That’s when I realised how was I going to pay for the course! I had to use up my savings, with my family pitching in. I also took up a loan,” says Mehta. At that point she wished that she had made the right financial choices when she started working at the age of 21.

This idea stayed with her and when she came back to India, she surveyed a section of urban working women to realise that she wasn’t alone in these misgivings. So, Mehta teamed up with a childhood friend and finance expert, Dipika Jaikishan, to help women like themselves overcome financial challenges. “At Basis, our personalised and customised content is hyperfocused on women’s lives and needs," she says. The mobile app features knowledge boosters so that women don’t have to sift through dense and overwhelming information from different sources. It’s all collated in one place. There is an advisory section based on a person’s financial goals and a set of communities that the member can engage with. According to Mehta, these are supportive spaces to voice queries and share learnings. “We do this in a jargon-free way through videos, quizzes and short modules, and also Instagram lives with women leaders like Malini Agarwal, Saloni Srivastava, Nirmika Singh and more,” says Mehta. “We also analyse current events that impact financial situations.”

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