The Future Needs to be

Sharon Buteau,

Executive Director, LEAD at Krea University

At the very core of our success at LEAD is the ability to bring together a rich and diverse set of individuals to ask the right questions, and gather the data and stories needed to think through them collectively. From some of the earliest product innovations in microfinance, to unpacking the complexities of climate action, in the last decade and a half, we have seen first-hand the immense potential of testing powerful ideas on the ground, to change the world for the better.

Through this book, we are taking a moment to tell the story of our own journey before charting our next chapters. I cannot be more thrilled to share a glimpse into the many shades and phases of our journey with you, and hope that this compendium will spark many meaningful conversations and collaborations.

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Glimpse from the Past,
Leap to the Future

N. Vaghul,
Chancellor, Krea University
“The completion of 15 years of research by LEAD at Krea University is a landmark moment to reflect on the milestones of the past and look at the future with a renewed sense of purpose. The areas that LEAD has specialised in — such as financial inclusion and the growth of small businesses — are of immense  importance for a country like India, where a significant proportion of the population lives below the poverty line, lacking access to essential services and a decent standard of living.”

Stories with

Explore this digital interactive that brings our journey to life, and tells the stories behind the numbers. (Concept: Santhosh Kumar S)

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Journey so


Over its 15-year history,
LEAD has undergone three
distinct phases of evolution

2005 - 2013
2014 - 2018
2019 Onwards

A constellation of visionary leaders – among them development economists, researchers, and business and finance professionals – team up to establish world-class development research facilities in India and nurture a new generation of critical thinkers

IFMR receives seed funding from ICICI Social Initiative Group

Three research centres are incubated:

  • Centre for Microfinance
  • Centre for Development Finance
  • Small Enterprise Finance Centre


Promote inclusive development through evidence-based policies and practices

  • Established model that taps global expertise to apply to Indian problems
  • Enabled transfer of knowledge and best practices to create local capacities
  • Created a trajectory for development practitioners and academic pursuits
  • Established policy linkages and strategic partnerships
"Our principal interest was to understand how to maximise the impact we have on society"

Dr Nachiket Mor


In January 2014, the three centres were integrated and rebranded as IFMR LEAD with a mission to ‘Leverage Evidence for Access and Development’:

  • Centre for Digital Financial Inclusion is born
  • Signed MoU with Government of Tamil Nadu for capacity building
  • Evidence for Policy Design: EPoD India at IFMR, a joint initiative with Harvard Kennedy School, established

Catalyst - initiative to scale up digital payment systems launched as partnership between USAID and India’s Finance Ministry

IWWAGE - Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy launched

LEAD has since expanded its footprint, across India and beyond, through research engagements and partnerships

  • Enabled knowledge transfer and initiated projects led by talent from the Global South
  • Achieved sustainability and scaled up field operations
  • Developed expertise on power of co-creation, and established critical partnerships

September 2019: LEAD joins forces with Krea University to enable synergies between academia and research. Krea’s interwoven learning approach brings together thought with action, and arts with sciences.

Combined with LEAD’s practical experience in working with partners on the ground, this has laid the foundation for a unique collaborative framework.

“LEAD’s evidence-based policy-making allows decision-makers to prioritise spending for optimal impact.”
Dr Sunder Ramaswamy, Founding Vice-Chancellor, Krea University