Gautam Bharadwaj

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2012


This profile was prepared when Gautam Bharadwaj was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
Demographic trends in India, combined with poor coverage by existing financial products, suggest that India is moving toward a significant number of elderly poor. Gautam recognized that poverty-alleviation programs for the elderly poor are creating staggering expenses for the Indian government. Seeing this unsustainable policy continuing, Gautam built a new pension system that creates financial security for the elderly through sustained contributions during their working lives. He believes that the central values of a pension system should emphasize self-help and thrift.

Since 1998, Gautam has been committed to instilling new savings behaviors among young and working populations that would free them from depending on their adult children in their old age and allow them to save modest sums through their long working years. Employing creative techniques, he raises awareness among communities to foresee their future and understand the benefit of deferring current consumption to save for old age. To support this, he has designed the institutional infrastructure to enable and encourage each citizen to take this risk. In 2004 Gautam steered the design of the National Pension Scheme to introduce flexible products that take into consideration the irregular incomes of the informal sector. He also harnesses credible, regulated institutional capacity to increase outreach and service delivery to make products more affordable by minimizing transaction costs. Partnering with payment service providers, such as banks and card companies, Gautam has also developed technologies and structures that insulate communities from institutional risks and allow them to save in a convenient, secure, regulated environment.

To secure an above-poverty pension and incentivize communities to undertake disciplined voluntary retirement savings over multiple decades, Gautam convinced the central government and several state governments to commit to supplement the savings of the communities. With over 150 million low-income workers enrolled, across nine states in India, he is now actively engaging private companies and citizens to contribute to the savings of their workforce.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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