Changemaker stories: Pradnya Karbhari’s commitment to change

June 18, 2018
By Rang De Team
Pradnya Karbhari is one of thousands of changemakers we are proud to be associated with. PC: Pradnya Karbhari

Over the past ten years, thousands of people have come forward to support our mission of promoting financial inclusion and alleviating poverty. Many of these changemakers have been our pillars of support and their passion and commitment to the cause has been a touchstone for our own work. Pradnya Kharbari is one such changemaker who inspires many of us with her understated passion and commitment to change.

A software engineer by training and a former employee of Google, Pradnya’s association with charities and NGOs began early, during her days as a graduate student in the USA, when she volunteered for charities like Child Rights and You (CRY) and VIBHA.

After nearly a decade spent abroad, Pradnya shifted back to India some 11 years ago and has since continued her association with the social sector.

Association with Rang De

Pradnya had been hearing about Rang De through her friends for years but stopped shy of involving herself with the organisation because she was unsure of the whole process of providing loans “My main question initially was how to handle the interest component of it. And initially I didn’t have any clear answers about that.” she says.

Things changed when one of her colleagues at Google asked her to host Ramakrishna NK and Smita, the founders of Rang De, for a talk within the organisation. After the talk, she approached the founders to clarify things further and better understand the model of providing low-cost microcredit.

“I approached them [Ram and Smita] more… as a contributor, what it means for me, who are the people who are benefitting. That talk clarified a lot of things for me in my mind” she says.

And she hasn’t looked back since.

During her time at Google, Pradnya was the chairperson of the ‘Google India Women in Engineering’ for two years, where she helped select candidates for the Anita Borg scholarships, providing “women students in computer science” with scholarships. The field of computer technology is notoriously male-dominated and as a passionate advocate for ‘Women in Tech’ Pradnya naturally gravitates towards women’s empowerment.

In her association with Rang De, this has translated towards her supporting individual women entrepreneurs. Another cause that Pradnya believes in is the universal access to education.

“I totally believe in education for everyone” she says. “I can see many aspiring students who really want to study but don’t have the resources. I really like the fact that I can help at least some students get the education they want.”

Supporting the Rang De model

During our conversation, Pradnya mentions providing a loan to her household help so she could meet some immediate expenses “I could see it benefiting her a lot, because she doesn’t have to go to an external loan shark and get the money at 20–25 % or whatever right?”

Almost immediately, she could see the same principle at work when she donated and provided people a loan through Rang De.

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“Because they can get the loan, people can budget, repay the money and come back for a further loan. So that sense of confidence they get, at least to my mind, is pretty good.”

Pradnya overcame her initial scepticism to become a changemaker with Rang De.

Pradnya also listed the many things she like about Rang De: the fact that the donation is given out as a loan, which is repaid and used again; that a person donating can see what use the money is being used for.

As she puts it “From the other fundraisers [for other NGOs] that I have organised, I know that the money goes to a central pool and is then disbursed to certain projects. Most other organisations, you will end up donating money to a central place and you don’t know where exactly the money is going.”

With Rang De, she found that things are different. “The fact that I can read a person’s story and decide that this person needs money to be successful… the connect between the lender and the borrower. That I think is the best part about Rang De.

Reason for others to support Rang De

When asked to state one important reason for others to donate to Rang De, she said

“I have talked to Smita and Ram and I know how dedicated and committed they are to these efforts. My main concern whenever I am giving money is whether it is being used in the right way. And I can say a one hundred percent that it is. The fact that even a small amount like Rs 3000 can make such a big difference in people’s lives, I think that is the main thing to go with Rang De.”

Pradnya has been associated with Rang De for well over five years. It is the constant support of amazing individuals like her that we are able to carry out our work with people in communities across India.

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