Discovering Microfinance in India

Gabor, one of the Development Instructors trained in the Fighting with the Poor program, has spent 6 months in India working in the Humana Microfinance project.

Microfinance is a system that provides credit to the poor who want to work or develop a business, but who do not have any access to other financial services, such as loans from banks. Humana People to People India is using the Microfinance project as a tool towards the financial inclusion and empowerment of women from impoverished and marginalized rural regions. This project has helped income generation and has improved the standard of living in many poor communities. Moreover, it has contributed to gender equality.

From June to November 2016, Gabor has worked at the Humana offices in New Delhi, but he has also travelled and worked in villages from three states (Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh). Read here about his experience in India!

 

In the very beginning of my Project Period, I started from zero. I didn’t have any previous experience in microfinancing. I was getting to know my Indian colleagues, the whole organization, and the project itself. The Humana Microfinance staff has been very welcoming, and helpful. They provided me with all the relevant information from the very start, and this made my work easier.

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At the Humana Offices in New Delhi

Together with my project leader, we decided that I should go to the branch level (directly in the villages where the beneficiaries, called “clients”, live) for a month and see the operation on the field. This proved to be a fantastic idea! I got so much experience, and I learned a lot in such short time. I learned about the process, about the clients, about the practical problems which appear sometimes. And not only – I also experienced the living conditions in the villages. Everybody made me feel comfortable, and they were open to talk and share their stories.

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Common view in the villages

In the branches, I was living together with the field staff and I was following the same daily schedule. Every morning, we would visit clients on the field: loan utilization checks, guaranteed rate transfers, recovery collections, capital gains tax, household verification, and so on, and so on. In the afternoons I was following the disbursements and adopting the back office work. I was working together with the Branch manager solving daily problems and improving the sales performance. In the meantime, I contributed to the staff training through Excel and English for business teaching. After office hours, I was usually shopping with the field staff and then we were having dinner together. They explained to me a lot about India, and their culture, and in turn, I also told them about my country, Hungary, and about my life experiences. It was a fun and inspiring environment.

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Meeting the clients on the field, in one of the branches

After this first month on the field, I continued my work at the NHQ in New Delhi in cooperation with the Partnership office. My new task was to conduct a research about Humana Microfinance activity and its social impact on the clients. Therefore I started to work on this client assessment. For this purpose, I was following these steps: planning, field visits, interviews, data entry, analyzing, report writing and presentation of the findings to the stakeholders.

The crucial and most time consuming part of this process was the field visit. I had to visit 9 branches in 3 states: Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The goal was to interview at least 370 clients. It was one of the most challenging times for me, but I’ve learned so much, and now I am truly thankful to have had this experience.

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One of the field visits

After finishing my research on the field, I started to analyze the data and to write reports about my findings. The outcomes are three reports, which I made using the information gathered at the client interviews. One report is for the internal stakeholders with some recommendations regarding the operation and the social performance. Another report is for Business Correspondents. This report suggests how they could help the Microfinance staff in the future product designing in order to meet the client’s needs properly. The third report is a general report about Humana Microfinance for external stakeholders like impact investors or future business partners on which the staff depends for financial funds. These funds are needed to run the operation well and to reach out more people, in more communities.

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One of the interviews for research purposes

As part of the Project Period, there is also an investigation trip in India. For this trip, I chose to visit the Step Up center in Panipat where Geo and Sandra, my teammates, were working. It was nice for a change to be surrounded by children and to be involved in an educational project. The conditions at the center were very poor. And it was heartbreaking to see that the children had almost anything. Together with my teammates we fund raised some money and we bought some basic things for those who were studying well. Apart from that, we also bought a projector for them. This is very useful for the teachers in the wintertime because they can organize indoor activities for the students.

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With Mubarak and Samir, two of the students from Step Up Panipat

Living in a developing country is something that I cannot compare to anything I’ve lived so far. I am so happy that I chose to come to India and that I joined the Humana Microfinance project. I think it was the best choice because it feels like this was the project I could contribute the most to. Moreover, working for financial inclusion improved my skills and expanded my knowledge about this segment of finance. Meeting the clients in their villages, and in their homes, I gained so many extraordinary experiences about their lifestyles and living conditions! During these meetings, the clients talked freely about their issues, about their activities, about their day to day life. I learned so much about the country specifics in this way! I hope that my work was useful for Humana People to People India, and it will have a positive impact on people’s living conditions in the future.

Gabor – May 2015 Team

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