Rang De Is Like A Start-Up in A Growth Phase — Aroj George

August 29, 2016
By Rang De Team
Connecting communities in the remotest parts of India with urbanites through an online crowdsourcing platform requires a lot of technological innovation on a daily basis

I have been here for nearly a year now as the Chief Technology Officer. I was actually a Social Investor for two years even before I joined Rang De.

I did not know about the work that goes on behind the scenes, the amount of diligence we put into evaluating our Impact partners, the field visits we do to understand how the loans work and evaluating the operations so we can be even more effective.

Once I joined Rang De, I could see first-hand the amount of work we put in and that was a confidence boost and it was nice to learn that. It felt nice to be part of an organisation that really cares about the work they do.

I knew that Rang De was a non-profit but what it exactly means to be a non-profit only became clear now that I am a part of Rang De.

We focus exclusively on first-time borrowers as enabling livelihood generation for rural women has proven to be an effective route towards improving child education, child development, women empowerment and brought about income stability among poor households

The most pertinent example is how Rang De is keen on giving loans to first-time borrowers — that is our primary motivation.

But if somebody comes to us for fourth of fifth time then we question that and ask our Impact partners whether it should be disbursed and whether there has been any problems in creating impact that they need to come back so often.

We care about the borrower. We are not in the business of just giving loans.

We check to see if the borrower has taken loans from other sources. If so, it might not be possible for them to pay back and they would suffer undue financial stress. The intent is clean and clear — we want to eliminate poverty and help India.

This has been a big revelation.

It’s still early days in terms of technology at Rang De. We are at the stage where we are trying to rebuild the foundation for scale for the future — imagine a 1,000 Rang De loans going to rural areas every day.

This is the kind of work which will take time to see the returns on.

One key achievement we have attained so far has been the addition of more payment options like different wallets on the site. People who found it difficult and time consuming to do payments over the internet are now finding it a lot more easier and quicker.

We are also working on enhancing our Impact partner webapp so that our Impact partners, the ones that disburse Rang De loans, have a much easier time going to underserved communities to get the applications.

We are also working on the redesign of the Rang De invest flow. Once that goes live, it can make a significant impact in the user experience and hopefully inspire more people to invest and help low-income individuals.

We want people to enjoy making investments on rural entrepreneurs.

Talent Acquisition Remains a Challenge in the Social Sector

For the same skills they could put to use on technology for social impact, many techies get higher wage packets in the corporate sector, especially in a place like Bangalore. We are aware of that.

There is huge competition from start-ups who are willing to offer high salaries.

But as our Chief Technical Advisor opined in a blog post a few weeks ago, working in Rang De or in the social sector can offer intangible benefits beyond a mere salary figure apart from the opportunity to do good.

Coding and the opportunity to do social good? It is possible at Rang De! Do check bit.do/tech-at-rang-de for available opportunities (link)

The fact that you are actually working on things from scratch and you are part of a lean team is always exciting. There are a lot of responsibilities on a young programmer’s shoulders in a social tech company. If they were to join a big corporate, they might just be a small member of a large team and the amount of learning would be a lot less.

In a way, we are like a start-up in a growth phase. We are about to really expand and that’s the best kind of company to join.

At the end of the day, tech team members would be creating real social impact and they can actually see how the work they do is making a big difference in the lives of many people.

Such a combination of prospects are rare. People who want to make an impact should definitely consider working for a non-profit like ours. Our key challenge — the need to reach out to those people who truly want to make a difference in the social space using technology — definitely appeals to a lot of people and they just need to get in touch.

What I am seeing through our recruitment sessions, though, is that such individuals are on the rarer side. We are very selective and don’t believe in lowering our standards in recruiting despite the above challenges and our need for more tech talent.

Still, we are keen to get in touch with people who are passionate about contributing back to society.

We are happy to have them over and change their perception that at an NGO, there might not be anything cutting-edge or it might not be interesting work available on offer.

We are looking forward to see more techies come to this sector.

Aroj George heads a team of 10 technology professionals at Rang De and comes with 8 years of experience with ThoughtWorks. He can be reached at tech@rangde.org for any further queries. Interested candidates can look at our Tech Careers page for a list of openings.

To comply with RBI regulations, Rang De’s lending operations are moving from rangde.org to our brand new platform rangde.in. Visit rangde.in to continue social investing.