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Haqdarshak Empowerment Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

3 women have a discussion in a Indian neighborhood alleyway

Unlocking billions in benefits for India’s underserved

  • Case Study
  • Workforce
  • India
  • 2024
agents trained
benefits earned

Haqdarshak Empowerment Solutions (Haqdarkshak) works to ensure citizens at the last mile can access the government’s social protection schemes and services with a focus on digital and financial inclusion. This is done through a mobile and web SAAS platform for corporate partners complemented by a training platform used by community women entrepreneurs.

The problem

India’s national and state governments have developed thousands of large-scale benefits and financial welfare support programs. However, these programs are not effectively reaching low-income communities, both urban and rural, many of which do not even know that they exist, leaving millions of Indians without access to the benefits designed for them. Only 40% of Indian citizens are able to apply for the government benefits they need, and most workers do not have the necessary documentation. 

Without these benefits, India’s temporary “informal” workers – 90% of the country’s workforce – are left dangling without a safety net. It takes only one unexpected misfortune to plunge them deeper into poverty.

The solution

Haqdarshak connects low-income Indians with the government welfare benefits they are eligible for: from disability pensions to crop insurance to education subsidies. Haqdarshak’s research team maintains an up-to-date database of information on over 7,500 government benefits programs, written in 13 local Indian languages.

Beneficiaries learn about the schemes available to them through the company’s community field support agents, or “Haqdarshaks,” who travel door-to-door in their communities to determine via a mobile app an individual’s eligibility for government benefits free of charge. Customers can then choose to apply for the benefits they qualify for on their own or pay their “Haqdarshak” a small fee to apply on their behalf.

In addition to one-on-one services, Haqdarshak also partners with companies large and small to provide this support to their informal workers.

The origin

After working in the development sector for eight years, Aniket Doegar, co-founder, CEO, and Acumen Fellow, realized that a major issue for communities in India was a fundamental lack of awareness about the welfare schemes they were eligible for. Aniket partnered with Asha Krishnan and PR Ganapathy in 2016 to start Haqdarshak with the core idea of using technology to disseminate information to people.

When Aniket became an Acumen Fellow in 2018, Haqdarshak was early in its journey. The fellowship provided Aniket with the opportunity to be in the same room as government officials, civil society leaders, activists, and social entrepreneurs. In an interview, Aniket stated, “[Each actor] looks at the same problem, but looks at the solution very differently…By the end of that year, I was able to look at the problem in a more purposeful way. The cohort’s feedback and the dialogue we had helped me match the for-profit and social purpose, and to scale that up.”

After completing Acumen’s fellowship, Aniket and the Haqdarshak team received one of the inaugural Acumen Angels awards, a program designed to elevate and advance early-stage, impact-driven entrepreneurs. Shortly after, Acumen invested in Haqdarshak, making Aniket one of the first Acumen Fellows to receive an award and subsequent direct investment.

The impact

The company provides end-to-end support for customers, starting from screening through to the application process, for government scheme benefits. Haqdarshak has unlocked $2.1 billion worth of government benefits for its customers.

The company trains agent intermediaries, the majority of whom are women (over 60% in 2022), to implement the model, fostering digital literacy and providing financial benefits for these “Haqdarshaks” as well.

The investment

Haqdarshak first received a $50,000 award from Acumen Angels in 2019. One year later in 2020, Acumen invested equity into the company, along with a follow-on equity investment in 2023. Acumen also provided technical assistance grants to support the company’s scale and operations.

The story

In Haqdarshak’s early years, Omidyar Network conducted a Lean Data study that would inform the model and trajectory of the company. The original business model had employed more men as the sales agents, but the Lean Data study revealed a deep, unique impact for women beneficiaries. In villages where the company operates, women often did not leave the village, and there were almost no employment opportunities for women. Today, Haqdarshak impacts women’s lives in two ways: providing livelihood opportunities and unlocking scheme benefits. While the company’s agents help to unlock scheme benefits for the community, the agents themselves have become stronger, more empowered citizens.

Prior to the Acumen Angels Award, Haqdarshak had reached 100,000 citizens. With the award, they were able to attract a bridge round and a follow-on pre-Series A round. This allowed Haqdarshak to scale their operations and continue to innovate their product. Today, the company has reached over 6.3 million citizens, unlocking $2.1 billion worth of government benefits and training over 25,000 women field support agents. The company’s agents are able to earn a monthly income, while also carving a niche for themselves as community leaders. According to a 2020 survey, 90% of agents reported an ability to improve their family’s annual income and 94% of women agents reported receiving more respect from family and community members. 

One of Haqdarshak’s agents, Zeba Khan, is a postgraduate living in the Mandoi village of the Vidisha district in Madhya Pradesh. Despite wanting to leverage her education, there were no job opportunities there. Then, she began to work with Haqdarshak, earning a monthly income of 10,000 INR ($120). With her earnings, Zeba opened her own company. “Today I have opened a Common Service Center (CSC) called Zeba Computers with my own laptop, lamination machine, biometric machine and printer – all through the money I earned from Haqdarshak. I have built a lot of trust in the village and gained respect from my family and community.” The impact does not stop for the company’s agents, but it also extends into the people they serve.

Most of Haqdarshak’s beneficiaries work in the informal sector, which includes agricultural workers, construction workers, micro-enterprise owners, and migrant workers. The typical beneficiary belongs to a marginalized caste, living below the poverty line in rural India. A 2021 study showed that 62% of beneficiaries were women, and 66% were living below the poverty line. Many of these workers also lack basic documentation required for financial assistance or basic banking services. 

“I have a five-member family, and I am the sole earner. During the lockdown, with the ration I got because of Haqdarshak’s support, I could feed my children.”

In Chhattisgarh, one of Haqdarshak’s agents assisted a self-help group of 10 women through the application process for the Krishi Yantra Anudan Yojana, a loan scheme offering subsidized interest rates. The group received a loan of 10 lakh INR (nearly $12,000) from the bank, with 80% of the loan and the interest rate covered by the scheme. With these funds, the women’s group purchased a tractor to rent to farmers in the community for a monthly income of 15,000 INR ($180). Farmers in the community now had access to a cheaper tractor, while the women’s group had a new source of income. 

Haqdarshak’s story embodies “investing as a means.” Aniket’s journey from an Acumen Fellow to an Acumen investee has led to thousands of lives impacted. The Angels Award enabled access to capital, which allowed the company to continue to innovate and train more field agents. Those field agents were then able to improve, not only their lives, but the lives of people in their community. Haqdarshak demonstrates that capital can be a means to better incomes and a better quality of life.