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Technology for the underprivileged

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Technology for the underprivileged

Akanksha Hazari is the founder of m.Paani, which develops impact-focused loyalty programs that leverage mobile technology as a platform to provide key products and services to the underserved. While studying for an MBA at Cambridge University Akansha participated in an annual competition for business students run by the Hult Prize Foundation. That year, participants were asked to submit business plans that could help address water scarcity issues, and Damon's Water.org was brought in as an adviser. Akansha's team came up with m.Paani.

Users of the platform earn points for their mobile phone usage or expenditure on select FMCG products that can be monetized for products and services - such as safe water, education, energy and healthcare - which will improve their lives and livelihoods. She piloted her program in the Sewri slum, one of the largest and most diverse slums in Mumbai. Recognizing that mobile phones had the highest penetration of all products within the community, she successfully partnered with a leading Telecom to establish a community-oriented loyalty program.

Akanksha leverages the exisiting distribution channel of local kirana shops (mom&pop shops) in the communities to run her rewards program. This means that an m.Paani user can go to a kirana shop and sign up for the rewards program, put credit on their phone and earn points for it, and also redeem their points for rewards including hygiene products from the store.

Akanksha is now expanding her system so that urban slum dwellers can transfer their points to their families in villages, empowering them to aid the development of their rural home communities as well. In the long-term, she also sees the potential of m.Paani to leverage the data it collects on consumers, including their spending habits and aspirations, to influence how companies engage with them.

Akanksha has received the Economic Empowerment Award at the Vital Voices Global Partnership Awards for m.paani.

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