My Rang De Experience

- Dennis Tan, Rang De Intern 
Dennis Tan, a business student from Singapore interned with us in December 2013. Here is a brief account his internship. 
 

Dennis' internship at Rang De

“The amount you invest may not affect your finances much, but it will bring about significant improvement to many lives.”

This was a statement which sets me to reflect the mission of Rang De during my first week of internship. And in fact, this statement which aggregates Rang De’s ideas, beliefs and motivations for a peer-to-peer lending model that could be leveraged to lower their cost of microcredit. Rang De is more than just any micro-credit organisation who does social funding to change the living conditions for its borrowers. More importantly, Rang De thrives to paint and fill colours of rainbows into the lives of its borrowers.

During my one month internship at Rang De, it was my pleasure to have forged many long lasting memories and friendships with all my colleagues. Moreover, I would value it as one of the most congenial workplace one could ask for, within an environment and culture that is family-oriented. Rang De’s daily interactive sessions have been of a great facilitation for me to getting to know each and everyone in the office. As such, I felt that is was easy to integrate and work together collectively as part of the Rang De team.

Vibrancy, Inspiration and Excitement are the three words which sums my experienced as an intern at Rang De. Vibrancy is seen from each individual in the office and the way they bring joy and laughter to the workplace. Inspiration is seen from each team member’s passion and motivation to thrive towards Rang De’s goals. Excitement is seen from the team’s future prospects of its upcoming initiatives and the challenges in the field of micro-credit.

As an intern at Rang De, I not only got many opportunities to learn but also the opportunity to impact and to contribute to the Rang De team. Throughout my internship, I was actively involved in several initiatives that were both challenging and fulfilling. The only setback I faced was the lack of chance to follow Ram for a field partner visit, which was partly due to my short internship duration as well as last minute cancellation from field partners. With that said, I would definitely give my support to Rang De for its quest against poverty as a social cause.

Lastly, I would like to use this chance to thank Ram, Smita, Chaitanya and the rest of Rang De team for allowing me the opportunity to be part of the Rang De Experience!

A Letter to India

Zoé Gautheron recently completed her 6 month internship with Rang De during which which she handled projects like the Rang De Box Office and Rang De Chapter websites among other things. Here is her Letter to India where she talks about her experiences, internship and what being in India was like.

Hi All,

My name is Zoé, I’m French, 21 and I recently left India. This is my Indian story…

My business school gives every student the opportunity to do a 6-month internship abroad. The purpose of it is to give us the chance to discover a new culture and a professional activity that we are curious about. I immediately knew that I would go and work in an NGO. Why? To me NGOs are the real actors of social change, especially in developing countries where many issues are to be dealt with and NGOs lead a genuine combat against inhuman disparities. NGOs are the real change makers and  I want to be a change maker!

I had first planned to go to South America but then I saw an internship offer on our school platform about a certain Rang De in India. The description of the tasks urged me to know more about Rang De and I read a lot about it on the web and on their website –a website that I thought was really friendly and transparent. I also got in touch with one of my seniors who had interned at Rang De the year before. She shared that she had really enjoyed her experience and told me that I was lucky to go there. She told me that not only was I going to enjoy the beauty of India but  I was also going to learn a lot at Rang De!

I can now tell you that after 6 months in India, my senior had not lied. Coming from a Western country, my 6 month stay in India has taught me a lot. Not just about the country but I also learnt a lot about myself.

If I were to explain what India means to me, I would say that it is a country of smell, tastes and colours. The smell of the spices, of the flowers, the taste of food that you eat and feel with your fingers, the colours of the flowers, of the temples, of the saris and so much more. I’m going to miss this beautiful picture of India for sure.

It might interest you to know what seemed weird to me in India. First off, the traffic! The way people drive is crazy and insane! People should just be more careful and follow the rules! Secondly, the noise! Why do people have to honk so much? Thirdly, no toilet paper! I know it’s funny, but I wasn’t informed that nobody uses toilet paper! One of the things that fascinated me the most are the auto rickshaws –the first time I got into one, I was so excited that I actually filmed my experienced and shared it with my family in France. All these things that seemed ‘weird’ to me are actually normal. C’est la vie here.

Coming to India showed me that the way we think, live and do “normal” things in the western countries may not the same in the rest of the world. Well, things are just different, and it would be pointless to compare France to India. These are two different countries with two different cultures due to a different past and history. And I had to keep that in mind when I felt frustrated about the way people act and think.

Speaking of work life in India, let me tell you more about my Rang De experience. I’ve done many things; I’ve been working on many projects (RDBO, the LUI campaign, Chapters’ websites). However, this is not what I would probably tell people back in France about my internship. I’ll tell them what I have really appreciated is creating a relationship with my colleagues. Since the beginning, they have been there to explain to me their tasks, to take the time to answer my questions and patiently repeat, because it took me a while to improve my English listening and speaking abilities. They were also there to tell me about the Indian culture. They have been there to make me feel at home and cheered me up. Unfortunately, when I wasn’t with my friends, I felt different, alone and stared at by everybody!

There are so many things I could say about this wonderful Indian adventure of mine – I’ll miss drinking coconut water on the streets, the smiling Indian faces (though they have a million reasons to be sad and angry at the system but have decided to make the best of what they have instead of complaining about what they don’t) I’ll also miss learning something new every day about a country that was absolutely unknown to me just 6 months back!

I’m really happy to have come here and go through this amazing experience. I’ve learnt so much, every second in India presented an occasion to learn and understand something. This experience has made me grow as a person and I am glad to know that my stay in India is an unforgettable chapter that I would cherish all my life!

Love

Zoé

 

My Rang De Experience

By Ashlesha Bhagwat, Rang De Intern

When I first heard about Rang De, I was inspired by their social entrepreneurship and efforts to make the poor in India self-reliant. So, as you can imagine, I was very excited to be working with them to learn more about their organisation and how it was run.

My task was to design and implement a social media campaign to raise awareness for Rang De. This involved creating new facebook ads (encouraging social investment); twitter updates and coming up with innovative facebook posts.

One of the most interesting things that I did during my time here, was to organize and run a tweetathon. I was able to be very creative when promoting this event and trying to popularize it. What I did was to create an online form which people could use to sign up and then a document titled ‘how to participate in a tweetathon.’ I posted the details of this event on facebook and twitter and it immediately took off. Luckily it was a success and many people tweeted the hashtag #rangde.

I also came up with an idea for an interesting project, which is currently under wraps. It was great fun working on it and again, I had the opportunity to be creative and think outside of the box.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed working here and would love to come back, should the opportunity present itself. I was exposed to a new way of thinking and learnt a lot from my experience. I thank all of the Rang De team for making this an enjoyable experience for me.

Simply India!

Elena Rozova, student from Denmark, interned with us in January 2012. Here is a brief account of her field trip to Palakkad, Kerala.

Coming from a wealthy Western country with heavy consumption of culture, what was I anticipating from a field trip to a rural Indian village,will it be eligible for Rang De’s microcredit? Firstly, I expected to witness overwhelming poverty and dreadful living conditions. Second, I was prepared to meet hard-working people, exhausted and showing no signs of joy. To my surprise, not all of the pre-conceived notions appeared to reflect the real picture.

Of course, poverty and shortage were present everywhere, but, surprisingly, despite all that people seemed to be enjoying their lives. Welcomed as a guest of honor and treated in the best possible way, from the very beginning I was once again assured that the lesser people have the more cheerful, hospitable, open and willing  nature to share whatever they have.No doubt, they were sincere when expressing their gratitude for the micro-loans and telling how much the quality of their lives  have improved since they received the credits.

When westerners often get upset, if not able to afford a luxury car or another designer bag, rural Indians are able to enjoy simple things like a glass of milk from their cow or just knowing that a second-hand sewing machine will provide some income in the coming days. To many of them, this is a TRUE luxury as they have experienced severe poverty before receiving their first microloans. During the trip, I met many glad and proud owners of kettle, owners of small teashops and snack stalls and tailors all of which are real proofs that microfinance does, indeed, work.

So, we can learn a lot from the rural people. The first thing here should be appreciation of what we have without constantly striving for more and complaining what we do not have and we cannot achieve it. We have to remind ourselves that it is possible to be happy without a penthouse apartment and that there are people in need of very basic things – and they are still able to smile!

At the same time, we can help rural Indians a lot, too. As of now, help is desperately needed to improve sanitary situation in villages (in many of them you will not even find a pucca toilet). Both children and adults need to be taught some basic hygiene rules. Of course, one might argue that rural people have been lived like that for centuries and that old habits die hard. With that in mind, no changes are expected to happen overnight; it will be a long process of educating and training, hopefully resulting in improved living conditions and greater joy of micro-loans.

Field report from an intern – Mentorship for micro-entrepreneurs

By Vikram Murthy, Summer Intern - IIM Calcutta

“Once we identify the borrowers we would finance their expansion plans and then get them mentored by experts in areas that the borrowers would need help in!” When Ram finished explaining his idea I was excited by this first-of-its kind initiative, the mentoring initiative, which lends a helping hand to borrowers who have the risk appetite and the entrepreneurial ability to scale up their businesses.

Ruth does door to door apparel selling
Ruth does door to door apparel selling

We took a couple of weeks to come up with the scope of the project and Smita simultaneously was scouting for partners who would be most suitable (and willing) to initiate the pilot. Luckily New Life, RangDe’s partner in Trichy was more than willing to provide the support we needed. Once their buy in was obtained, Archana and Vikram set out to Trichy. The first day ended with identifying a potential field mentor. We decided to work with Mrs. Gayathri simply because she comes with loads of enthusiasm and shares our passion.

The second day on the road proved to be more fruitful as we visited a suburb in Trichy and interviewed a large number of borrowers. Being in the suburbs of a city, these borrowers were more market savvy (in terms of knowledge of competition, market size, loan expectations etc) and gave us quite a few insights into marketing!

Most of the members in the team though had a consensus candidate by end of day 2, Mrs Routh, who sold womens daily wear apparels. She surprised us by her policy of credit sales and neat record keeping, as well as her ideas for expansion (she wanted to sell sarees in the same neighbourhood which had roughly 2000-3000 families).

Another borrower, whose business we found attractive, was Mrs Kala, who ran a shop selling fruit juice. Its location on the highway and the enterprising nature of the borrower enticed us towards the business.

Kala runs a juice centre and wants to expand her business
Kala runs a juice centre and wants to expand her business

Mrs Gayathri played a major role since she was the field mentor and spent a lot of time with the entreprenurs including doing market surveys. in the near future. A special mention must be made about Mrs Gayathri here. The lady has a keen sense of business and is good with her communication skills as well. We could not have asked for a better field mentor for our pilot phase!

The borrowers need time to come up with the expected loan amount figures and Mrs Gayathri sent in the detailed reports of the 3 candidates. These reports included the cash flows, credit sale details, business environment details and a summary report by the field mentor. These inputs would then be fed into the system at RangDe (work in progress) which would help obtain an online mentor for the business. The online mentor would be some one with a good deal of work experience in areas like marketing, operations etc and she/he would primarily deal with the field mentor in order to pass on ideas to the borrower.

Though both Mrs Kala and Mrs Routh asked for higher amounts (we did not want to burden them with huge loans as we wanted them to take the phased approach as well). Their loans are being processed and in a few weeks time we would be beginning the implementation of the expansion plans.

We are very hopeful about the success of the program and have no doubts that if the program were to work and be scaleable the pilot in Trichy would set the benchmarks for any future implementations of the initiative.

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