American India Foundation’s Initiative Revives Millions of Livelihoods, Wins CSR Impact Award

Estimates from the National Hawker Federation put the total number of street vendors, including hawkers, at 5 crores (50 million). They are supported by 10 million micro-industrial units. More than 80% of these vendors are migrant or laid-off workers. The COVID-19 pandemic created livelihood challenges for millions of such vendors across India. 


They are the less educated, poor strata of Indian society, whose lives are driven by daily sales.


The lockdown imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 completely shut down their businesses, leaving them with no other avenues of work or sources to earn an income. Since they operate in the informal economy, they have no social security to depend upon, turning them into one of the most vulnerable groups in the country. 


To ensure a quick recovery from this setback, the government launched the PM SVANidhi scheme. Under this, street vendors are eligible to procure a loan for Rs 10,000 and use it to restart or expand their business. Once this loan is repaid, the vendors can apply for another increased loan of Rs 20,000. 


However, the gaps in awareness and implementation of such schemes have prevented widespread coverage of street vendors under this scheme in the past.


That is when the American India Foundation (AIF) launched Project Entre-Prerana (Prerana- in Hindi means Inspiration) to bridge these gaps and ensure that street vendors get the benefits under this scheme, along with receiving other social security benefits.


The project aims to revive the livelihoods of 1 million street vendors and other micro and nano enterprises. They do this through formal registration, access to low-cost working capital through banks, and access to new markets and e-commerce platforms. 


Since its inception, AIF’s Entre-Prerana has impacted 129,833 street vendors across Delhi, Jaipur, Hyderabad, and Mumbai among others. For their impactful work, the organization won an award under the Livelihood category at the 8th CSR Impact Awards, India CSR Summit. This is Asia’s largest CSR Forum hosted by CSRBOX and Dalmia Bharat Foundation.


Understanding and enabling vendors 

As millions of street vendors lost their means of livelihood due to the pandemic and the resultant lockdowns, AIF launched Entre-Prerana as an intervention. It is digital and financial inclusion, aimed at reviving the livelihoods of 1 million street vendors. 


Empowering vendors in Hyderabad


The project envisages an ecosystem impact by collaborating with multiple stakeholders such as donors, financial institutions, governments, corporations, urban local bodies, street vendor associations, and micro-finance institutions.


It addresses three main problems – Lack of formal registration, dependence on cash transactions, and the lack of access to formal banking. To resolve them the Project enables vendor registrations, builds capacity through financial literacy and facilitates digital payments. It facilitates access to working capital and creates forward and backward linkages to expand the business and increase income. 


The project creates an ecosystem of impact by collaborating with multiple stakeholders such as donors, financial Institutions, FinTechs, State Governments, corporates, street vendor associations, and more. 


By removing systemic barriers like long durations of loan approvals and defaults in loan repayments, Entre-Prerana also creates robust financial linkages by engaging an innovative AI-enabled underwriting and loan disbursal platform. Currently available in English, the app will soon be available in multiple vernacular languages.


The organization says, “This app provides loans through a real-time process, which is completely different from the bank’s loan process. It has helped thousands of street vendors get a loan within 5 to 10 minutes.” 


Reviving livelihoods


Since its inception, Entre-Prerana has impacted 129,833 street vendors across Delhi, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Mumbai, Varanasi, Bhopal, Indore, Kolkata, Patna, Ajmer, Kanpur, Ahmedabad, Surat, Morbi, Mysore, Bangalore, Thane, and Matunga. It has facilitated 64,605 vendor registrations and trained 103,810 vendors in successfully using digital payments.


A vendor in Varanasi.


To ensure more vendors are aware of the project the organization has created 100+ points of contact in the market for a better flow of information. They identified, engaged, and promoted forward-thinking market leaders in the street vending sector. 


Lalita Sonkar, 42, a single mother and the sole earning member of her family, is a curbside clothing vendor on the busy streets of Lucknow. She is amongst millions of street vendors who lost their livelihoods due to the pandemic and the resultant lockdowns. 


The intervention has empowered Lalita to revive her livelihood by mainstreaming her business through formal registration, providing access to low-cost capital through banks, and linkages to new markets and e-commerce platforms.


Entre-Prerana has given new ideas like an increased number of vending sites and group purchases of vending items to the vendors and leveraged capital investments to enhance their business.


Roshini Muthukumar

Roshini Muthukumar, a native of Chennai, started her career as a content writer but made a switch to journalism to pursue her passion. She has experience writing about human interest stories, innovative technology, entrepreneurs, research blogs, and more. Previously, Roshini has done internships with The Hindu, Metroplus and worked as a correspondent with The Better India.