To my chotti buaji for inspiring me to express...
I was very happy and keen to join a company which is doing a social cause and working closely with rural women of India and improving their living standard. I just dressed in my Kurta and Pajami for another office day when I agreed to appear for an interview in this NBFC (Non Banking Financial Company). I met the most humble HR in my career. He was a little shy in talking and I thought that he didn’t like me. Already annoyed for passing through Azadpur area, I noticed that their office was in somewhat 30 to 40 years old building, which in first sight was ready to collapse. When I was asked to go back and wait for the final call I became furious and I blasted on my consultant for dropping me from an established IT firm to this Municipal office. After I received a call from them to reappear for the final round I thought of taking some notes on the term Microfinance. From this moment my life took a turn. Spending an hour on Wikipedia, Grameen Bank, Ford Foundation, CGap and few more Microfinance Institutions’ websites I realized it is a web of such institutions working on this social cause.
The day I met their CMD on the day of my final Interview, I realized how keenly people are working on providing financial assistance to these low income people. On my way back to home I told my family that I have reached to the right place and this is the right job for me and I will be able to give my best contribution to this sector. I wasn’t wrong, every day in past 3 months have taught me something more and have boosted me with some more energy. I was hired to head the communication department and to form a new department (Social Performance Management). I expanded the team; thankfully my boss and my subordinates are extra-ordinarily humble, enthusiastic and creative humans. I started reading about this sector more and realized that lot of media critics have lot of speculations, number of stories on high rate of interest, big institution entering into IPO and couple of communities - supporting social goals. By that time I was still relieved in my mind that it is all the social cause and nothing more.
One such evening after office, I was talking to a friend who carelessly commented on my work profile “people have amazing ideas for profit making.” Then it clicked in my mind – yes, that’s the story, while people were busy in calculating their figures for profit the idea of social responsibility slipped. Two decades of Microfinance Sector, by reaching and providing financial services to millions of people for their productive needs, still critics are only making stories with all no-no-no and not good thoughts, still there is a need of reminding them that this sector is providing a social contribution as well.
This is how the need of Social Performance came into existence: All such Microfinance Institutions (MFI) were requested to report to standards for their social performance, just like they have annual audited statements and financial reporting for Banks, funders and their investors. They were requested to notice how responsible they are to their employees, clients, community, society and environment. It worked; many big and small MFIs approached to seminars and started reporting to measure their Y-O-Y growth on social performance. There are many delusions in the process and yet it is amazing from common man’s point of view, this is how my mother puts this whole sector in her words, “I am thrilled by just realizing that how small groups of 5-6 rural women form a center of 25-30 women and choose their group leaders and center leaders under the supervision of the loan officers, they qualify themselves as a client and request for their financial requirement on their productive needs. They ménage and in discipline follow the sessions before loan disbursement and meanwhile learn to write their name, undergoes training on financially literacy for managing their funds. She waits and repays patiently week by week for a year. Also, she returns after sometime for new loan or after few cycles she graduates her from below the line to above the national poverty line. It is a great example of learning, discipline, leadership, patience and unity”
On the lighter note I agree with my mother and also from a broader perspective on this sector I see it as small and big MFIs are stretching their hands working professionally for profits, reaching to the remote areas for the new clients and employment generation for the village people and knowingly and unknowingly spreading a message of two bottom lines for many enterprises they are supporting – Financial Growth + Social Responsibility.
I sum up the whole matter in the last question - I read somewhere while reading many article on this social Business: “Do social business require a special breed of entrepreneurs, or can they be easily implemented by entrepreneurially minded individuals guided by a social passion.” I don’t have an answer to this question but whoever fits into the above mention categories should work and spread the message of this two bottom line story and do their contribution to this sector for creating a world without poverty.