About Us


To enable creation of an innovative technology-driven ecosystem to support India’s flagship benefit transfer programmes and to engage with and include the under-serviced, excluded and poorer sections of Indian society into the financial mainstream.


The Centre for Digital Financial Inclusion (CDFI) at the Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR), Chennai was established in September 2014. CDFI is headed by an Executive Director and supported by a team of functional and domain experts with programme and project management experience.

The primary objective of the Centre is to reduce inequities in financial access and services using technology. The Centre firmly believes that a series of digital interventions are required to accelerate access to financial products and services. Therefore, the Centre’s work in the digital financial inclusion and payments space is scalable across sectors/domains including agriculture, health, governance, education, and financial services.

To achieve its objectives, the Centre focuses on four key areas – Research, Innovation & Scale, Policy and Programme Support and Dissemination. Research is used to develop deep field level understanding of the relevant issues; identify and assess intervention areas; understand facilitators of cashless transactions and evaluate impact post intervention. Under Innovation & Scale, the Centre promotes product development and scaling of new digital payment use cases, business process reengineering and developing an ecosystem comprising of infrastructure, partnerships and collaborations to further digital financial inclusion. Policy and Programme Support is used to create a favourable and conducive environment for the interventions and to ease administrative and regulatory bottlenecks that limit innovation and scale. Dissemination is to spread the learnings from the interventions for others to benefit from.

Since its inception the Centre has initiated research studies, program support projects and technology intervention projects in various domains. The Centre has also set up a Digital Innovation Lab at IIM Bangalore to promote development and scaling of new digital payment use cases and encourage research. The Digital Innovation Lab has a ready to use ecosystem comprising of infrastructure, partnerships, collaborators, managerial and technical expertise, solutions, and ability to undertake specialized research.



CDFI advances the following objectives, all of which are aimed at poor, rural, or otherwise excluded population segments:

  • Drive payments made to excluded population segments onto digital platforms
  • Work with commercial providers to test and scale new digital payment innovations
  • Develop and scale new digital payment use cases
  • Analyse policy / program implementation frameworks to help create an enabling environment for digital financial inclusion
  • Create public goods to accelerate diffusion of best practices


India’s expenditure on Social Services [2016-17(BE)] is more than 11 Lakh Crore, 7.4% of GDP. Expenditure on Social Services has been increasing both at the Central and at the State Level. JAM (Jan Dhan - Aadhaar – Mobile) has emerged as a robust framework for delivery of Social Services to the beneficiaries. JAM underscores the benefit of technology in delivery of Social Services to reduce leakages and intermediaries – cash benefits can be directly delivered into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries, beneficiaries can be authenticated at the time of availing benefits and beneficiaries can be informed about the availability of benefits and their availment. JAM has thus brought to fore the role of technology in benefit delivery. But, improvement in outcomes and goals on account of increased expenditure and use of JAM needs to be tracked; supplemented by real data.

Therefore, although JAM is a key enabler for the delivery infrastructure, it is only a small part of the whole delivery framework for welfare programmes. Data is key for achieving improved outcomes and goals. To gather real data and enable near real-time & continuous tracking of outcomes and goals, technology has to be leveraged to transform all stages of Social Services delivery lifecycle from the first to the last mile, i.e. (a) Implementation (b) Outreach and (c) Assessment and (d) Analysis.

(a) Implementation – Hundreds of schemes, today, are waiting for technology and DBT (Direct benefit transfer) enablement. Without technology enablement, operational data of a scheme is hard to get. Monitoring of operational data is essential to track the progress of a scheme and therefore its contribution to achievement of outcomes and goals. We need a technology platform for quickly on-boarding and rolling out schemes. This platform should be able to manage and track Centre and State share of funds. Also, it should be able to provide flexibility of routing benefits in either cash [DBT or CCT (Conditional Cash Transfers)] or in kind (physical goods or CCT). Service providers should be able to use the appropriate mode either based on feasibility or on beneficiary choices.

(b) Outreach – Outreach is equally important for outcome and goal achievement. We need to make outreach more conversational in nature - to inform citizens’ about the services, answer their queries and guide them wherever and whenever necessary.

(c) Assessment – We need to continuously assess impact of services as they run by reaching out to beneficiaries and last mile touch points. Leveraging technology can greatly reduce assessment to evaluation time and enable periodic assessment (through social audits or independent studies) to be incorporated into the program design.

(d) Analysis – To improve outcomes and goals - implementation, outreach and assessment data has to be analysed i.e. output, outcomes and impact have to be measured and tracked. We need to be able to define indicators on the data, establish causal relationships and view trends. Analysis should be fed back as part of an iterative process into program design and implementation, and appropriate messaging through outreach to improve outputs and outcomes.

The Centre for Digital Financial Inclusion (CDFI) is developing innovative solutions covering the entire benefit delivery lifecycle

A. IMPLEMENTATION – CDFI has developed two innovative solutions that enable quick implementation and rollout of schemes.

a. Sunidhi - Sunidhi is a product suite for efficient delivery of benefits to intended beneficiaries. Sunidhi can be used by any Ministry / Department to configure their benefit programs quickly and deliver benefits to the intended beneficiaries (i.e. define eligibility criteria, link funds to the program, define approval workflow, integrate with PFMS, on board service providers, generate MIS/dashboards & analytics, redress grievances) with end-to-end tracking of the fund movement from provider to end beneficiary.

Sunidhi has been used for rolling out Pradhan Mantri Matritva Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) by the Ministry of Women & Child Development. Sunidhi is also being used in the Village Social Transformation project of the Govt. of Maharashtra for creating and tracking projects at the village level based on field data, and for managing funds from multiple sources.

b. BETS (Benefit Entitlement Tracking Solution) - BETS enables delivery of benefits in various modes – direct benefit transfer (DBT), conditional cash transfer (CCT) and in-kind transfer.

BETS has been used to track delivery of food at Anganwadis in a pilot project at Palghar Maharashtra. The project is being now enhanced and scaled for use across the State of Telangana.

BETS is also being used for direct and conditional cash transfers to TB patients to improve the outcomes of TB treatment under the Government’s e-Nikshay programme.

B. OUTREACH & ASSESSMENT – For outreach and assessment, CDFI has a Award winning digital learning platform, called Samwad, which aims at improving dissemination of literacy and awareness content using basic Mobile phones and a Mobile App. It has an adaptive and an interactive conversation style. The platform can engage users continuously by way of interactions, stories, images, videos, discussions and polls in a language of the choice of the user. The innovation has enormous potential of being used for outreach and assessment in relation to Social welfare programmes, in conjunction with the platforms mentioned above.

Samwad has been used for (a) financial literacy (b) impact assessment of NDLM (National Digital Literacy Mission) program on the CSC VLEs (Common Service Centre Village Level Entrepreneurs).

Samwad is proposed to be used for piloting MeitY’s digital learning programme on digital payments - ‘DIGI VAARTA’.

C. ANALYSIS – For analysis, CDFI is developing SANKALP (Scheme analysis and knowledge aggregation for launching programs) - a generic analytics platform. Any database (population, operational, outreach, assessment etc.) can be plugged into Sankalp to monitor outputs and outcomes defined for the programmes. Data implying a particular attribute (e.g. female) across multiple databases can be tagged to its true meaning even if it is stored differently in different databases, thereby enabling cross comparison and aggregation of benefits across databases. Sankalp can run the eligibility conditions of a scheme on available population databases and compare the target vs. actual population impacted thereby facilitating in addressing of inclusion and exclusion errors. Resource allocations can be viewed geographically to determine priorities. Sankalp is being enhanced to allow dynamic creation of indicators on the data and to show trends.

This platform is currently being implemented in Chhattisgarh. About 8 databases in Chhattisgarh having population and operational data (PMAY – G, PDS, Farmers’ database etc.) are being plugged in for analysis.

We are also working on a concept which facilitates exchange of data (across multiple welfare programmes) within the existing legal framework on data privacy and confidentiality.

The Team

Our team comes from diverse backgrounds and brings expertise in developing and scaling innovative solutions in collaboration with public, private and not-for-profit sector


CDFI's role is to identify catalytic opportunities and to fund grant, TA, research, and advocacy efforts to unlock those opportunities. For this purpose, it partners with the Government, both at the Centre and the State.

Given that its focus area includes agriculture and food, rural development, health and nutrition, education, banking, MSME and governance, partnerships in these areas with government ministries and departments are being created.

Commercial partners such as major banks, MNOs, third-party business correspondents, and entrepreneurs developing innovative digital financial services are also crucial for fulfilling the mandate of CDFI.


Awards/ Recognitions

CDFI awarded Best Innovation Partner for GKSF 2015 Image
CDFI awarded Best Innovation Partner for GKSF 2015

Kerala Chief Minister, Shri Oomen Chandy felicitating Shri Krishnan Dharmarajan, Executive Director, CDFI, at the closing of Grand Kerala Shopping Festival, 2015


Winner of Startup Karnataka Top Tech 25 Awards 2016

Newsletter Signup

Get more research, insights and thought leadership content delivered to your inbox.