By Shantaram, Rang De Mumbai Chapter Member
“Its time for scheduling a field trip”, was the subject of the mail, that made me quickly drop my work and take notice . It was Diksha from the Rang De Chennai Office, planning the regular evaluation field trips to one of the Rang De field partners. Rang De field trips are an opportunity to experience the difference a small social investment can make.
It was my second field trip with Rang De , this time to Pusad where the Rang De field partner SAGRAS is based. After a long and delayed train journey 7 of us fieldtrippers reached Akola on friday afternoon, only to take on another bumpy but enjoyable bus ride to Pusad.
As we reached the Sagras office late evening 7 hours later than we were supposed to reach, we were surprised to find their entire team patiently waiting to welcome us. Over a cup of tea the entire team introduced themselves and gave us all the latest updates on their work and the various projects they work on.
Early next morning after a delicious traditional breakfast of shira and bhaji, we planned our work for the day. We were all excited as we set off to visit each of the borrowers individually, enquire about their business, get updates on how the loan was utilized and also get their feedback on the entire loan process.
As we saw the working of a cycle shop, I couldn’t stop doing some calculations in my mind. With a loan of a mere 3000 Rs, the woman bought two new cycles that she now rents out, getting a fixed income of 50 a day. That’s the same amount I sometimes spend on a single dinner at a fancy restaurant !
The next lady we met runs a tailoring business. She has not only expanded her business with the loan but now manages to support her daughter in doing a diploma is fashion technology. And you’d think only people in cities dream big!!
Another family just managing to make ends meet with their small income distributing milk, has now started a business of making paneer and selling it to the local hotels for a decent profit.
As we went on with the visits we were struck by the optimism of the women folk. Each one had big dreams for their families and their business, and surprisingly educating their kids was the foremost on their agenda.
Its when they get stuck in the cycle of poverty and in the fight to make ends meet that they lose track of their priorities. They just need a hand in kick starting their journey, someone who would trust them and guide them.
Mentoring is another area where Rang De’s field partner SAGRAS is making a huge difference. Apart from arranging funds for the businesses with help from Rang De, SAGRAS also arranges mentoring sessions that train the women in business basics. At the core of SAGRAS are people who have been working in the area for more than 20 years and have a very good reputation with the local people.
Now thats a real change from all the controversies in micro credit that have recently been in the spotlight.
It felt great to know that Rang De is associated with organisations like this.
As we started our long journey back home, we couldn’t stop talking about the people we interacted with. I seemed to have met more entrepreneurs in a day than in my entire life.