To help youth gain employment, the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) has set up youth skills training c...

AKDN / Christopher Wilton-Steer

Vijay Bamniya was an Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) community mobiliser and is now a village entrepr...

AKDN / Christopher Wilton-Steer

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India | Economic Development


AKF has established self help groups that increase financial inclusion for 32,500 members

Development Credit Bank, India.


Financial Services

Long-held traditions of self-help gave impetus to small community-based co-operative societies that have evolved, with AKFED’s help, into small co-operative banks. These then merged to form the Development Co-operative Bank, and eventually morphed during the 1990s into what is now known as DCB Bank.

From its origins in small institutions addressing the needs of underserved communities, especially in the co-operative sector, DCB Bank in India has emerged as a fully fledged commercial bank, providing advanced corporate finance services while continuing to serve the needs of co-operative society borrowers. AKFED has also promoted private-sector initiatives and entrepreneurship through equity investment, in partnership with multilateral agencies, international investors, local development institutions and individuals. We facilitated finance for home ownership by playing an instrumental role in the launch of the Housing Development Finance Corporation Limited (HDFC) in the mid 1970s.

DCB Bank is usually amongst the top five banks in India in terms of offering attractive term deposit interest rates, especially for longer tenor retail deposits.It has a network of more than 340 state-of-the-art branches across the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi/ NCR, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and the Union Territories of Chandigarh, Daman & Diu, and Dadra & Nagar Haveli.

The Computer-based Technology and Learning Centre (CTLC) was established in 2007 by AKRSP in partnership with Microsoft. There are 13 CTLCs in Baruch and Surendranagar districts.

AKDN / Jean-Luc Ray

Enterprise Development and Employable Skills

India has high levels of rural-urban migration and a large population of young people who are not keen to work in agriculture. In response, AKF and the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) are working to develop the capacities of rural youth and match them with job opportunities.

AKRSP runs Yuva Junction, a network of skills and entrepreneurship development centres in rural areas. They provide youth with information about government schemes, agriculture markets and job opportunities. Technical and life skills training includes computing, nursing and retail.

The centres are increasingly linked with employers (including retail chains, call centres and construction companies) and have placed thousands of youth in new jobs.

Women’s Economic Empowerment

AKF enhances the self-reliance and empowerment of women and girls and women’s collectives through employment and life skills training, as well as microenterprise support and access to finance. In urban areas of Patna (Bihar) and Hyderabad (Telangana) as well as in rural Uttar Pradesh, AKF has been helping adolescent girls, who have dropped out of school, access vocational skills training such as sewing and embroidery.

Alternative Energy

We have been promoting alternative energy to reduce energy deficiencies in rural areas. These programmes have focused on bringing energy to poor households while reducing the drudgery of women and children (from the collection of wood and dung), providing pollution-free environments, providing domestic light and reducing reliance on expensive, carbon polluting fuels for irrigation and drinking water distribution. This programme has helped youth and women from marginalised communities become solar energy entrepreneurs who now earn a livelihood from selling, assembling and repairing low-cost solar energy products in their communities.

Community Based Savings Groups (CBSGs) in India are self-managed groups that provide their members access to basic financial services.

AKDN / Jean-Luc Ray

Financial Inclusion

In order to increase financial inclusion for India’s most marginalised communities, we have established more than 5,000 self-help groups (SHGs) in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, 86 percent of whose members are women.

These groups have accumulated savings of over US $1 million since 2002. With the savings, members have been able to pay for health care, finance existing and new livelihood activities and repay existing debts to moneylenders. We are increasingly working to link SHGs with formal financial services such as the Development Credit Bank (DCB), which has added three branch offices in the tribal areas of south Gujarat, with support from AKRSP, since 2009. We also ensure that collectives and microenterprises, especially those targeting vulnerable populations such as women and tribal youth, are able to access government programmes which provide economic support.

Over 20 SHG federations provide capacity building and oversight support to 1,096 of the SHGs. In Bihar, AKF and AKRSP along with local implementing partners have mobilised 35,300 individuals (92 percent women) into 1,807 CBSGs. Unlike SHGs, CBSG members save in varying amounts and liquidate their funds annually. CBSG savings rates appear to be several times higher as a result. Drawing on the CBSG model developed by AKF in East Africa, Central Asia and South Asia, as well as the existing SHG model, AKF has also pioneered a new model in India. This combines CBSG and SHG components and enables its members to have a high rate of savings and access credit from financial institutions. This SHG Plus model is being implemented in rural Bihar with a view to expanding it to other states where AKF and AKRSP are present, and in urban areas as well.