Any economic endeavor as a phenomenon exists within a certain environment and thus, cannot function in isolation from various external influences and concerns. In the context of today’s global trends, the business paradigm is focused on the ways of embedding technology in the industry while remaining ethically consistent with human capital management (Wasieleski and Weber, 2019). As a result, modern corporations are doing their best to preserve social support and image in terms of current global tendencies. One of the major aspects in terms of the issue is the acknowledgment of social responsibility, claiming the businesses to support smaller enterprises and social initiatives.
The present paper aims to dwell on the tangible example of such an initiative and explore its peculiarities through the prism of external factors, Corporate Social Responsibility, and ethical considerations. Hence, the example analyzed in the paper will concern the united initiative launched by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Mastercard in 2020, known as the Kirana project. In terms of the paper, the project with be analyzed on the matter of its content, stakeholders, external factors, ethical considerations, and role in the context of the Corporate Social Responsibility phenomenon.
The success rate of any small enterprise is directly correlated with its relevance to the environment. Thus, the existence of Kirana or corner shops has become a rather controversial phenomenon after the global introduction of e-commerce and large retail corporations that present a wider goods assortment and price (Bharucha, 2019). The issue is especially relevant to the context of today’s Indian market, as it now experiences rapid enhancement on the international level, attracting large enterprises to enter the market.
As a result, Indian Kirana stores go through adverse modifications in terms of customer perception and relevance. According to researchers, a way to address the issue of small businesses undermining the market is to implement innovation in smaller enterprises for them to compete within the industry (Dato‐on, Banerjee, and Roy, 2018). Hence, for the companies to enter the competition on ethical terms, it is necessary to provide all the business entities with access to innovativeness.
However, as far as such businesses as Kirana store management are concerned, it is of paramount importance to consider other factors besides high competitiveness rates. Thus, one of the most important issues in terms of small business management is the factor of gender. Not so long ago, women in business, especially in the context of managerial positions, were considered an exception rather than the norm in the South Asian segment (Sharma and Kumar, 2019).
Although the tendency has been modified dramatically over the year, women in charge of small businesses experience competition challenges both due to the market modifications and discrimination within the small enterprise segment. As a result, one of the world’s largest financial services corporations, Mastercard, decided to pool its efforts with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to create ‘Project Kirana’ (‘Mastercard and USAID partner to launch ‘Project Kirana’’, no date). The primary mission of the project is to support female entrepreneurs who run Kirana shops on the territory of Uttar Pradesh.
Other goals of the initiative include:
- Increasing the level of financial and digital literacy skills like banking insurance and e-payments;
- Improving the overall business management skills among the female managerial segment;
- Eliminating the cultural and especially gender barriers in the Indian Kirana store owners’ way to success and prosperity (‘Mastercard and USAID partner to launch ‘Project Kirana’’, no date).
The overall initiative is sponsored by Mastercard’s financial commitment to reinvent local small enterprise management and women empowerment in terms of the formal economy, with the company investing nearly $33 million in Project Kirana. The project itself relies on US governmental support, as the empowerment process is guided by the ideas outlined in the White House’s Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative (US Department of State, no date). Hence, to assess the overall relevance patterns for such an initiative, it is necessary to dwell on the close consideration of external factors contributing to the project’s outcome.
External Factors Overview and Analysis
Any business model as a sophisticated concept requires meticulous consideration in terms of the factors that eventually contribute to the end product and overall project. In the context of small enterprises, researchers identify such external factors as the business environment, input and output market, political institutions, investor interest, and social considerations to be the most important (Tran and Nguyen, 2019). Hence, it is necessary to consider all these options when applied to the given project to define the external factors playing the most significant role in the concept.
To identify the relevance of Project Kirana, one should pay close attention to both quantitative and qualitative factors impacting the process. Hence, the notion of business environment encompasses both internal and external processes taking place within a business segment (Gaganis, Pasiouras, and Voulgari, 2019). However, in terms of the present report, such external business environment peculiarities as competition, customers, and the economy will be taken into consideration.
When speaking of the segment’s economy in the South Asian context, the first thing that should be mentioned is the pace of its expansion, as nowadays, India has become in demand in terms of human talent and outsourcing (Puri and Mishra, 2020). As a result, the demand for human capital has led to the overall increase in the average profit per capita, creating new opportunities for the consumer market. Thus, considering Project Kirana’s intentions, it would be safe to assume that the overall economic environment serves as a beneficial external factor in the given area.
As far as the customers are concerned, it should be mentioned that the overall perception of Kirana shops serves as a major benefit for the investment’s outcome. According to the sociological research data, Indian residents feel a deep cultural connection to the Kirana stores, as they have always existed as a primary source for goods acquisition (Bharucha, 2019). Moreover, despite the emergence of large retail stores and product assortment, many Indian residents still have Kirana stores as the only access option, retaining the relevance of the segment. Considering the project’s core mission, it may be concluded that customer demand as a major external quantitative factor could be increased significantly after the project’s completion.
Finally, the notion of competition serves as the most significant in the given context, as it was one of the major catalysts in terms of the initiative’s emergence in the sphere of Kirana retail stores. According to the researchers, the competition in the Indian retail market is primarily divided between organized (large chain stores) and unorganized (Kirana shops) retail markets (Sangvikar, Kolte, and Pawar, 2019).
However, the aspect of internal competition in terms of the unorganized retail market is also emphasized by such social factors as management’s gender and reputation in the community. The project discussed serves as a beneficial tool in terms of these accomplishments. The ideas of input and output markets will not be discussed in the present paper due to their irrelevance to the small retail industry and project implementation.
When speaking of political intervention, it would be safe to mention that such a factor may be regarded as purely qualitative, as it is rather difficult to define a tangible approach and measure the institution’s participation. However, such a comment does not undermine the scope of influence politics has on business endeavors. Every business initiative is primarily controlled by various governmental policies and legislations, making the process extremely dependent on both state and global interests.
As far as Project Kirana is concerned, one should outline that its goals are designed in compliance with the US-based yet global initiative of women’s empowerment. The W-GDP Initiative was established by the US former president Donald Trump in 2019, aiming at enhancing women’s opportunity range in the business segment through educational resources and financial aid (US Department of State, no date).
The advocacy process is then realized with the help of the USAID’s gender and equality advisors, Hence, considering the aforementioned outline, it may be rightfully concluded that political institutions play a crucial role in terms of current project development and contribution to the Indian unorganized retail market enhancement. Still, the major drawback is the fact that the economic scenario, while causing concern in the global arena, was not initially addressed by local political institutions.
Frequently, when investors are addressing a specific project or initiative, they expect tangible investment return in the long run. Hence, speaking of the presented project, it is rather difficult to both estimate and calculates the potential outcome. For this reason, it may be assumed that the initial investment would eventually be returned in a form other than financial interest. According to the researchers, educational investment has recently become widespread in the South Asian segment to promote the emergence of more professionals in the emerging human capital and talent management market (Adukia, Asher, and Novosad, 2020).
As a result, it may be proposed that the primary interest of Mastercard and USAID’s project is the increase in the level of education in terms of human capital’s potential, as the US market is explicitly interested in recruiting talent from India. Thus, the promotion of proper education of talent while addressing the ethical challenge of gender discrimination is beneficial for both local and international stakeholders.
In the context of business conduction, there exists a variety of socio-environmental layers affecting the final product and efficiency. Hence, to make sure that the obstacles are either eliminated or avoided in the way toward a beneficial outcome, the project managers must assess these environments on the matter of risk. Given Project Kirana’s scenario, the most important aspects in terms of social considerations are the issue of gender inequality and lack of resources. As far as women are regarded through the prism of entrepreneurship, Cabrera and Mauricio (2017) outline the following social obstacles:
- Human capital;
- Identification of opportunities;
- Access to resources.
Hence, although Project Kirana is focused on meeting these requirements, it is still necessary to analyze the project’s outline in the context of ethical considerations and the Corporate Social Responsibility framework.
With the ongoing popularization of the notion of ethics, many corporations and small businesses tend to perceive the concept as a set of rules created to control ethically safe performance. However, the researchers claim that the idea itself is more related to the process of tailoring the scenarios of conduct in certain situations according to the business’s major product, customer profile, and environment (Vallaster et al., 2018). Indeed, when introduced properly, entrepreneurial ethics helps stakeholders cooperate effectively and achieve the set goals without emerging conflicts, misunderstandings, and other morally inappropriate disruptions.
In terms of the present report, it is necessary to dwell on the matter of female entrepreneurship and ethics. As far as this issue is concerned, it is of paramount importance to emphasize the difference existing within the business and cultural paradigms of ethics. While specific gender roles may be identified in the local culture’s approach to ethics, the pattern may either be followed or ignored on the level of separate enterprises (Bullough, Moore, and Kalafatoglu, 2017). As a result, the concept of gender ethics in the Indian business segment has now been modified due to the external influence of international enterprises entering the market.
Moreover, the notion of gender has a significant influence on the overall ethical representation of the enterprise. According to the scholars, women are statistically less likely to violate the ethical norms, which means that hiring female workers in managerial business contributes to creating an ethical business (Bullough, Moore, and Kalafatoglu, 2017). On the other hand, when employed in other positions within a setting, women tend to experience the manifestations of discrimination and unethical behavior themselves.
For this reason, Project Kirana was primarily interested in promoting change in the patriarchal patterns of leadership to address ethical considerations of equality, mutual respect, and social responsibility. Speaking of the latter, it is important to outline the significance of ethical policies within the enterprise. In the context of today’s business management tendencies, the business sector could no longer be treated in isolation from the overall social and ethical frameworks. For this reason, the fundamental of running a business should serve as an example for other socio-environmental aspects, including interpersonal communication. This assumption leads to the discussion of such a phenomenon as Corporate Social Responsibility (SCR).
Corporate Social Responsibility
Since no successful company can now exist separately from the environment, today’s business governance regularities include the notion of social advocacy. Thus, the idea of corporate social responsibility (CSR), which stands for the business’s regulation patterns, includes the concepts of sustainability, ethics, and accessibility (Dey et al., 2018). Previously, the process of CSR introduction to the business context was considered relevant solely for large enterprises.
Such a behavioral pattern emerged due to common misconceptions that CSR implementation is extremely expensive and irrelevant for small businesses, as they do not have a significant impact on society whatsoever. However, according to recent data, small and medium-sized enterprises constitute approximately 90% of the world’s business (Dey et al., 2018). Considering the numbers, one may rightfully assume that once the majority of these settings commit to the ideas of social responsibility, the global society will be changed once and for all.
Hence, when speaking of Project Kirana and its contribution to CSR, it may be outlined that the manifestation of the responsibility here is demonstrated in two major ways. The social responsibility could be primarily traced to the large enterprise’s effort to assist small businesses for the sake of fair competition and developmental prospects. However, the most important aspect of the CSR implementation process, in this case, is the advocacy for a global social issue.
Indeed, today’s society is replete with examples of gender discrimination in the business segment, especially as far as emerging markets are concerned. This generally happens because small businesses in the emerging markets are rather interested in remaining practically relevant in the segment while ignoring ethical and social concerns almost entirely. Hence, by promoting women’s empowerment in one of the most rapidly enhancing business segments among developing states, Project Kirana presents a framework for various social contexts across the world. Moreover, the researchers claim that current Indian trends in business include mirroring the CSR patterns of larger enterprises to enter new markets in the long-term perspective (Dey et al., 2018).
Hence, it may be concluded that the present report claims the project’s commitment to CSR implementation, which makes the overall project beneficial for all stakeholders, including the broad public.
Conclusion and Recommendations
When considering the development of any business project, it is of paramount importance to identify the concepts that may either explicitly or implicitly influence the company’s outcomes and existence in the market. The aforementioned concepts may be generally divided into internal and external influences. While the former may be identified and resolved within the management team, the external factors tend to be uncontrollable, causing a great deal of stress for all the markets.
The primary aim of the present report was to conduct qualitative empirical research on the matter of external influences to evaluate a particular case scenario. Hence, the chosen scenario was the recent launch of Project Kirana led by Mastercard and the USAID. Since the goal of the project was to promote women’s empowerment and support in the context of Indian small retail stores called Kirana shops, the research tackled the external factors for the small business development and women’s role in the setting. It was estimated in the process of research that Project Kirana was influenced by such external factors as the business environment, international political institutions, investor’s interests, and social considerations.
The latter was regarded through the prism of ethical considerations and CSR. Having taken all these aspects into account, it may be concluded that the business project model discussed in the report, while influenced by a variety of contributors, remains extremely relevant and beneficial in terms of the modern social environment. Considering the data analyzed, there are currently no explicit recommendations for the project, as no qualitative data has been presented to the public yet. The overall idea, in its turn, is beneficial in terms of CSR worldwide practice.
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