Brainstorming with experts on how research can help build a digitally inclusive Jaipur

By Vaisnavi G

Catalyst, with the objective of scaling digital payments in India, is collaborating with the Government of Rajasthan to make Jaipur a cash-lite city. The ecosystem approach, taken by Catalyst for this project, is pretty unique. Based on the work to be done in Jaipur, Catalyst aims to develop a replicable model for scaling digital payments across India. In order to achieve this objective, it is essential that Catalyst works to assess its own impact as a project, and build knowledge.

Catalyst has decided to conduct a couple of impactful research studies to address critical knowledge gaps in the digital payments space. A roundtable discussion was organized on April 19th, 2017 in New Delhi, with some of the smartest and experienced minds in research, financial inclusion and digital payments. The discussion centered around two of Catalyst’s strategic research initiatives: i) Impact assessment study to be conducted by People Research on India’s Consumer Economy (PRICE), and ii) Ethnographic Small Merchant study to be conducted by IFMR LEAD.

Esteemed research experts from the following organizations were present at the roundtable: Institute for Human Development (IHD), Central Statistical Office (CSO), India Development Foundation, Indian Agricultural Statistics Research Institute (IASRI), Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), and Evidence for Policy Design at the Center for International Development (EPoD). Some of the non-research stakeholders present were: Fuzone E Systems Private Limited, The Financial Express and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Badal Malick, CEO, Catalyst kick started the discussion with an inspiring overview of the project and its strategy to scale digital payments. After giving a brief overview of the project-integrated research plan, Mr. Malick called upon Dr. J.S. Tomar to talk about the Sixth Economic Census of India, which enumerates details of business establishments in the country.


  • Interestingly, the Government owns only 4.2% of all establishments in Jaipur, while private ownership constitutes 85.8% (86.8% proprietors)
  • Only 7% of all proprietary establishments are owned by females
  • 85.1% of all establishments are self-financed, 5.2% are financed through government sources, 1.8% are financed through loans from formal financial institutions and 7.9% from other sources.


Catalyst is a one of a kind project to scale digital payments in India. With its ecosystem approach, Catalyst is implementing a range of activities to push literacy, awareness, handholding engagements and technical support to consumers and merchants. Further on, the project is working towards achieving a pro-digital payment environment through collaboration with the Government of Rajasthan and national-level policymakers. The complexity of the project raises an important question- How do we assess the impact of the project’s ecosystem approach on digital payment adoption and usage in Jaipur?

The impact of Catalyst within Jaipur city, and the impact digital payments have on the socio-economic status of low-middle income individuals will be assessed through a survey-based quantitative impact study. With a plethora of experience in conducting large-scale research studies in India, the People Research on India’s Consumer Economy (PRICE) will be leading this study.


At the roundtable, Dr. Shukla, Managing Director and CEO of PRICE initiated the discussion with 4 objectives of the impact assessment study namely : i) understanding the current scenario in terms of state/context, needs, behaviours, attitude towards digital payments and

related financial services, ii) evaluating the impact of Catalyst project interventions on adoption and usage of digital payments, iii)studying the impact of digital payments on access to broader financial services and business health/economics, and finally iv) evaluating the potential socio-economic impact due to digital payments.

After much deliberation and stakeholder consultation, we have identified the following merchant segments to initiate project work: i) fixed store merchants, ii) street vendors (who operate out of a temporary structure, but a fixed location), iii) mobile vendors (who operate out of a mobile structure which is not static), iv) individual service providers (who get paid for their services), iv) home-based merchants.


In order to ensure that the consumer and merchant target segments are well-represented, the following sampling strategy has been developed wherein the ‘true’ merchant category (i.e. fixed store merchants) will be sampled separately. Other merchant segments will be identified through a household listing frame. The household listing frame will also identify ‘pure consumers’ who do not have business owners in the family.

The presentation was followed by an insightful discussion at the roundtable. The following inputs were provided as a means to further add value to the study:

  • Due to the nature of Jaipur’s economic activities, tourists form an important part of the consumer base. However, there is not much data on tourists and their digital payment habits. One great suggestion put forth, was to ask merchants about their consumer base composition (tourist vs. local) and assess their digital payment usage habits.
  • Currently, the Indian digital payments context is constantly changing due to the political window of opportunity. It is important to recognize that external factors can be an important influencer in adoption and usage of digital payments. Since the study is not a Randomized Control Trial (RCT), the participating experts made the following suggestions to overcome this limitation:
  • The research team should document all external factors that could influence the topic of interest, and this should be done at baseline and regular intervals leading up to the follow-up assessment 1 year in the future.
  • Within the questionnaire, external factors (such as new policies, government incentives etc.) should be included while seeking reasons for a behaviour change or decision from the respondent.
  • Though an expensive and time-consuming activity to undertake, one suggestion impressed upon the need to find a counterfactual city that can act as the control center for this study.


Dr. Shilpa Pandit, the lead researcher, led the discussion regarding the ethnographic small merchant study that complements the large impact assessment study. Dr. Pandit walked the group through the following model of understanding the needs, and requirements of merchants’ and how digital payments fit into the environment of small business owners. The model constitutes three steps that are essential to understanding the decision-making process.

  • Economic/Business Sense
     In order to expect a business owner to change or adopt a habit, the new habit must make economic/business sense. Hence, the first step within the model covers rational processing that plays a role in decision-making.
  • Transition Sense
     The decision to adopt a new habit also includes an emotional response which varies from one individual to another. This second step within the model aims to understand the social, relational and individual factors that elicit an emotional response towards the behaviour shift.
  • Adoption Sense — covers factors that will result in habit formation/ establishing automaticity.

Finally, adoption of the new technology should help simplify and streamline a business owner’s everyday operations. This will eventually result in a sustainable behaviour shift.

The roundtable discussion provided a great opportunity to build upon the experience of research and sector experts, and explore new research strategies. Overall, the discussions helped validate Catalyst research approaches, while highlighting some vital points for us to be cognizant of, and integrate them into the respective studies.

Vaisnavi G

Originally published at Catalyst.

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