Bare Beginnings

March 14, 2011
By Rang De Team
By Aniruddha Ghosal, Rang De Pune Chapter

I moved to Pune about 7 months ago. While I had been involved in several social initiatives at college, I was inactive for nearly 1.5 years. Let me blame this to the work pressure due to lack of any better reason. The following experience brought me back to the social sector again.

It all started when (few months back) a volunteer was required by Rang De for Audio evaluations to measure the satisfaction level of the borrowers, how they utilized their loans etc. The borrowers were from districts in West Bengal so my friend introduced me to it as I know Bengali. I volunteered assuming that interacting with rural entrepreneurs would be a good experience but it turned out to be a great one-particularly because of one family.

During the course of the evaluation, I came across a family with 2 children and their parents. The family had a pan/bidi/tea shop which was not sufficient enough to meet their expenses, so they had to send their children to work for additional income. After Rang De lent them the money, they used that to expand their shop. They started stocking snacks, bread etc. This almost doubled their income, freed up their son’s time (Raja was his name, if I remember correctly) and they were able to send him to school. They wanted additional loan to expand further. I saw a prospect of their daughter also going to school when they could get that additional loan. Not only they just wanted money but they had concrete plans for scaling up. I could feel the eagerness in their voice. This is just one of the several stories that I came across in that single project. Unfortunately, at that point when they were asking for additional loan, I was just the messenger and not the decider but I made sure to contribute my bit in future towards sending more Raja’s to school.

As a habit, I made some back of the mind calculations. It turned out that less than 3% of your one-year income as investment is sufficient to send one person to school. Compare this with taxes of 10%-30%, contribution to PF of around 5% or more. This is the case considering the current scenario of approximately 2.5 borrowers for 1 social investor. If there is someone like you for every borrower, the figure will be mere 1.2%. This is micro-finance.

This incident made me realize the power of micro-finance in a developing country like India to fuel growth from granular level and to encourage entrepreneurship. I am sure there are no dearth of people; only that of awareness. So, invest, spread the word and take part in this movement to develop India.

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