By Aishwarya Mishra, Rang De Hyderabad Chapter Member
It was a sunny (honestly, it was hot :-)) Monday morning when Ram and I started out for a field visit to interact with borrowers living near the Charminar area of Old Hyderabad. Believe me, I am not being poetic or hyperbolic when I say this — it seemed as if we were transported from a shiny metro to a chaotic town. From wide roads of Begumpet to narrow streets of Old Hyderabad where cows, auto rickshaws, cars, pedestrians, hawkers and pedestrians were jostling for the same limited space.
After getting a confirmation from Miss Tanveer of Roshan Vikas we proceeded to their office (approximately 2.5km from Charminar). A 20 minute drive brought us to an unassuming house on a normally deserted street notwithstanding the odd truck or car. Once inside, we saw around 15–20 Muslim women who were waiting for us for sometime. We duly apologised for our delay and got down to interacting with them. Interactions of this nature are quite interesting as well as challenging. One cannot help but get interested and sometimes awed by how people go about living their lives meeting their daily challenges; at the same time we need to ensure that we complete our assessment by knowing, among other things:
– How is the loan helping the borrower, if at all?
– What are the borrowers requirements?
– What is their feedback?
We met Sajida Begum. Her children were going to school with the help of education loans from Rang De. These loans had helped her a lot. However she also had an older son who was unable to pursue further education due to lack of finances. According to his mother, he was brilliant and to ensure he does not waste time currently he was working in a medical shop — she appealed that Rang De should also fund higher education. Ram duly noted the feedback with the assurance that this issue will be discussed when the plans for the next year’s education loans are drawn.
Another lady spelt out the need for higher denominations of loans for their husbands to start their own businesses. One of the women present there was a group leader and she told us how they help someone if they were unable to repay the loan on a particular date. They did this not just out of the spirit of humanity but also to ensure that their SHG’s credit history is blemish-free. When they opened up more, they actually brought out the real worth of their meeting. They told us the problems they faced in securing the loan and told us how we could streamline the process — the maximum time by which the loans should be disbursed, lowering of costs by grouping loan applications, maintaining a continuous channel of communication with the field partner and also the end-borrower, understanding issues of individual borrowers.
A list of SHGs that take loans from Roshan Vikas.
While discussing with the women there, my eyes fell upon this chart stuck on the wall. It had the names of all SHGs under the program. Somehow it brought about that connection between the high sounding world of microfinance/SHGs/peer pressure and the group of women whom we were interacting with. I could clearly sense a healthy competition between various SHGs and was also pleasantly amazed at how they understood impact of certain decisions of ours on the intra and inter-SHG dynamics.
It certainly was a great learning experience. In fact this trip helped me answer a question that another chapter member asked me a week later. With so many MFIs and similar organizations working out of Andhra and Hyderabad in particular is Rang De relevant. I had the answer. The women whom I met said in no uncertain terms “We want more loans. We can repay”. I would end with this story from one of the facilitators at Roshan Vikas — She wanted to complete M Com 3 years ago. However she could not do so because she did not have 3500 Rupees with her at that time. This fact rammed into me the value of money and also the value of a Rang De loan. I hope there are no more people who have to cap their dreams for want of money.