By Sreekanth Raghunath, Rang De Bangalore Chapter
The Bangalore chapter members took off on a field trip to interact with artisans who have been funded through Rang De.It turned out to be much more than a field trip. Here is how the idea germinated and how it can result in something that can support the artisans!
“How does the Rang De model actually work?” “How do the the borrowers use the loans they get from us?” “What do Rang De borrowers really look like?” and many more such questions were lingering in the minds of some of us (especially, new-comers to Rang De) who went on a field trip to meet borrowers from Industree Crafts Foundation (ICF) living in Krishnagiri on 9th April 2011.
The Tempo-traveler left Silk Board junction at 8.15 am, after having picked up 10 of us fellow field-trippers (Asha, Cavery, Naveen, Nishant, Preethi, Rajesh, Sami, Sreekanth, Sreevatsan, Sugandha) from various parts of Bangalore. After a very short round of introductions amongst ourselves (as most of us had not met each other before!), the answers to some of the above questions started taking shape through some intense discussions we had on the way to Krishnagiri - only to be briefly interrupted by the break we took to have breakfast.
We found our way to the ICF’s office-cum-manufacturing unit in Krishnagiri and reached there around 10.30 am, where more than 15 craftspersons (men and women) were busy getting goods ready for the next orders to be shipped!
We first met the 2 Mr. Murugans who were in-charge of the unit, who took us through the raw-materials and finished goods sections at the Unit. They were answering our questions all along in Tamil, Kannada and English sometimes. The fact that we had a couple of native Tamil speakers in our group who translated our questions to the field-partner/borrower and their replies to all of us, helped the non-Tamil speaking members of our contingent, a lot!
There were cutters, tailors, finishers, people who stuck stuff with glue, and then of course, people looking after quality control - for, at places like the Mother Earth store and such other stores where these arts-crafts goods get sold, maintaining a high-quality for the finished goods is of utmost importance!
We had a look around and found a variety of stuff being manufactured there, including straw mats, hand-bags, designer wallets, jewelry boxes and more! The items were so colorful and tempting that most of us couldn’t resist and bought one thing or the other!
We spoke to quite a few artisans working there and enquired regarding the challenges they faced, how the Rang De loans were helping them, had a look at how they maintained their accounts, and learnt a great deal more about their operating model. Most of the above questions we had were answered by the time we left the manufacturing unit to visit one of the borrowers’ (Victoria Elizabeth Rani) home about a mile away from the manufacturing unit. There we interacted with Victoria’s extended family who very warmly welcomed us to their place and offered us a drink and chatted about issues they were facing and how this current loan and possibly a future loan from Rang De might help them get over some of those issues!
We finally left Krishnagiri around 3 pm, had a late-lunch on our way back to Bangalore and followed that up with an hour’s intense discussion amongst ourselves again, this time in a slightly lighter vein - about the upcoming elections in Tamil Nadu and who deserves to win and such! Some of us field-trippers had this to say about the field visit:
Sreevathsan: “These interactions made it more clear as to how the money reaches the borrowers. It also highlighted the importance of microfinance and we learnt more about the life of the borrowers, the difference in it after borrowing money, and the “Confidence boosting” the loans did!”
Naveen: “It helped me know how the money is actually spent by the borrowers. I also learnt the difference micro financing can make in the lives of rural small scale industries and about life in rural areas. After every field trip, it would be good if we can have a meeting or a mail conversation to discuss the findings of the trip or value adds that can be done from our side.”
Sugandha: “I think it is a good program to be associated with, and I will join in to contribute as I can.”
Rajesh: “Today's trip gave me a good sense of how Rang De system works. Will do my best to bring awareness within my circle.”
Quite a few of us wanted to go back on such trips, once in a month, which explains the kind of experience we got interacting with borrowers one-on-one and in-person!
Post the trip, Naveen has already come up with a plan to help these people from the manufacturing unit in Krishnagiri to reach out to more buyers in Bangalore and the Bangalore Chapter intends to take up this initiative with immediate effect After 11 years of operations, Rang De is now taking a massive leap forward with our brand new peer-to-peer lending platform rangde.in. Check it out.