Build for Bharat Podcast – Inclusivity in India’s digital future

July 1, 2023

The podcast features bite-sized conversations with the builders and makers of Bharat, like Dr. Pramod Varma from EkStep, Dr. Vivek Raghavan from EkStep Foundation, and Sateesh Palagiri from NPCI among others.

With economic progress, India has created a huge middle-class segment over the past few decades, making digitizing Bharat, one of the world’s most populated countries with 1.3 billion citizens, still a distant dream. However, the urban population benefits from the synergies of power of technology, education, finance, the ability to connect, and government services, giving tremendous opportunities and increasing their technological and financial inclusion dramatically. There is still a huge segment of the population entailing over 600 million Indians who lack access to the full range of formal financial services which meet their financial needs, generate wealth, and maximize the overall potential of their money.

While the country continues to expand its footprint globally and demonstrate high economic growth, financial inclusion has not yet been addressed at scale. Access to basic financial services enables the less fortunate and more vulnerable in society to step out of the vicious cycle of poverty and empower themselves and their families, making it important for the ecosystem to support firms and startups that address the same.

To help cater to this, CIIE.CO, an Indian business incubator established by IIM Ahmedabad, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, J.P. Morgan, MetLife Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and Omidyar Network, has been focusing to address the ever-evolving gaps in the inclusion-driven entrepreneurship space in India. Among its various initiatives, CIIE.CO has launched the Bharat Inclusion Initiative (BII) to help entrepreneurs focus on financial inclusion, livelihood, skilling, and health.

The Bharat Inclusion Initiative (BII), interestingly, is an effort toward bringing the benefits of technological progress to underserved populations. The Initiative focuses on incubating and backing startups that work in areas such as financial inclusion, livelihood, skilling, and health. All startups supported by the Initiative are expected to be using technology as leverage to increase reach and build products that serve the underserved.

For ambitious entrepreneurs working on problems of the Bharat market, the Bharat Inclusion Initiative provides domain knowledge, training, financial support, mentorship, and market access they need to bring inclusive, for-profit businesses to life. It supports businesses serving the Indian mass market through programs, fellowships, and funding where possible.

Build for Bharat Podcast is an extension of this to highlight and bring to light the influencers and makers, who are working towards bringing financial and technological inclusion through their innovative technology. The podcast is led by Sanjay Jain, Partner at Bharat Innovation Fund and Chief Innovation Officer at, where he guides efforts to help create, promote, and encourage entrepreneurship in areas around digital technology.

Sanjay has always been passionate about innovations in the Financial and Technological inclusion sectors. He leads the efforts at the Bharat Inclusion Initiative to bring more people into the formal economy, and workforce in India. He is also a volunteer with iSPIRT, the software product industry think tank of India. He has been an active member of the India Stack, Open API, and Cashless teams and has also been working with the NPCI to define the next-generation payment systems (the Unified Payment Interface), as well as with regulators and other bodies to help entire processes go paperless. He has been one of the key contributors to helping create, and evangelize various government open APIs, which are collectively referred to as the India Stack. These APIs have led to the digitization of various processes, enabling them to go paperless, cashless, and presenceless.

Sanjay has been responsible for the development of many large-scale, high-impact systems. He was the Chief Product Manager at the UIDAI, where he led the product development efforts from its early days till well after the launch. He was also responsible for the creation and launch of Google Map Maker – a crowd-sourced mapping product that is responsible for Google Maps data for 170+ countries (including India) and worked for global organisations, TIBCO and Sun Microsystems.

The podcast features bite-sized conversations with the builders and makers of Bharat, like Dr. Pramod Varma from EkStep, Dr. Vivek Raghavan from EkStep Foundation, and Sateesh Palagiri from NPCI among others. So far, the first three episodes have seen tremendous responses from the listeners. Industry leaders like Nandan Nilekani and Dilip Asbe have shown immense interest in the podcast and have also taken to their social media to highlight the importance of innovation in these spaces.

India is at the cusp of a digital revolution, it is imperative to promote and contribute toward innovations that bring Financial and technological inclusion to the Indian populace. The Government has been actively taking steps with multiple initiatives like Make in India, Digital India, etc., but it is not enough. Encouraging the new India and upcoming startups to solve the real-life challenges of Bharat is of crucial importance.

With this aim, CIIE.CO’s Bharat Inclusion Initiative is driven to identify and support startups solving India’s toughest problems in financial inclusion, skilling and livelihood, health, etc. by providing them with an enabling environment and ecosystem that assists entrepreneurs who are building solutions for Bharat. BII provides purpose-driven entrepreneurs with a continuum of support across research, incubation, acceleration, and soft and commercial capital to bring their inclusive, for-profit businesses to life.