Tag Archives: Ajiwika

Starting a virtuous circle with loan guarantees

24 Aug

We initiated repayments on loan guarantees this weekend and have returned nearly $20,000 in repayments to individual loan guarantors. This is a major milestone for us.

During repayments the amount of guarantee that is returned is proportional to the percentage repaid on the loan tranche from the bank to the microfinance institution. Thus in case of the earliest loans of June 2009 the repayment is around 40% of the guarantee amount, while for the latter loans in May/June 2010 the lowest repayment is around 9%. Loans in the intermediate period will have repayments between 9% and 40%.

To many individual loan guarantors, the repayments are a validation of the guarantee model. There is also a validation of the guarantee model at the human impact level that I am most delighted to share.

A year back at the peak of the financial crisis Ajiwika, our first microfinance partner was finding it very difficult to raise funds from banks. Based on United Prosperity’s guarantee support a large Indian bank agreed to lend a little over $200,000 over a course of a year to Ajiwika. Since then the total guarantees we have raised are a little over $100,000 making around $180,000 in loans helping more than 900 families directly. With the guarantee support, Ajiwika built a relationship with this bank and their credit history with the local banking system. Further since a large bank was lending to Ajiwika, other banks looked at them a lot more favorably. This expanded the circle of trust and since then seven other banks have approved $3.1 million in loans to Ajiwika that can be disbursed to around 17,000 entrepreneurs. Additionally Ajiwika, has also been able to reduce its cost of borrowing from banks and has reduced the interest rate it charges from its borrowers.

This is just a glimpse of the ‘Virtuous Circle’ that all of us have together started helping so many entrepreneurs and their families many of them known to us through their stories on the UnitedProsperity.org website and many more whose stories of courage and fortitude are similar.

Thank you for all starting the ‘Virtuous Circle’ making a difference to the lives of so many people.

Creating a shared prosperity

9 Feb

Last month we visited Ajiwika, our first partner microfinance institution based out of Jharkhand, India. We were very keen to meet some of the entrepreneurs from Ajiwika. We were joined by Tanay Chakravarty, the CEO of Ajiwika and some of his staff.

Our first visit was to Chakri Pahar which is around 10 miles from Deoghar where Ajiwika’s main office is located. We were greeted by several entrepreneurs and their families including Barki Devi and group, and Bandana Devi and group. Many of the entrepreneurs belonged to the Santhal tribe and we received a traditional Santhal welcome where they offer a pot of water with flowers to their guests, which was a wonderful experience. Shortly thereafter we started talking to the entrepreneurs on how the microloans had helped them – Barki Devi bought a bullock with the loan, Bandana Devi increased the inventory in her shop, Juba Hembram and a few others bought a cow.

Most of the stories showed signs of incremental progress, but we were impressed how Shaila Devi and her husband Naresh Murmu had quickly grown their business of making ventilators for houses. Naresh Murmu had been working as a mason for sixteen years. He had the skills but he did not have the money to start his own business. On getting the microloan, he started his business and now he has also employed two other people.

We were also delighted to learn that all the children in the neighborhood were going to school. In some cases, some families who were now enjoying a higher income after taking the microloan were enrolling their children in private schools instead of the government run schools which offer free education. While most of the women could only sign their name but could not read and write, their determination to make sure that their children have a good education was truly noteworthy.

As we were about to leave, Barki Devi sang a Santhal song to mark the occasion. The song was about coming together to create a shared prosperity for everyone. The experience was truly overwhelming and I still cannot fathom how she could choose a song so apt and profound on that occasion.

We visited more entrepreneurs at Nilkothi. Nilkothi is in the neighboring state of Bihar, which has recently experienced very good economic growth. The entrepreneurs here including Shanti Devi, Savitri Devi and other members were mainly involved in agriculture. All the entrepreneurs were highly appreciative of the fact that the microloans are disbursed quickly at their door step. They were excited to see pictures of guarantors coming from all over the world to support them.

We also visited Ajiwika’s branch offices and their head office. The branch offices are very functional and consist of two rooms with a kitchen and an attached bath. One of the rooms serves as an office and has a computer, two desks, a few chairs, a cupboard and a white board for keeping a scorecard of the loans. The staff involved in running the branch sleeps in the office at night.

The impact of the guarantee on Ajiwika has been remarkable. Six months back most of the smaller microfinance institutions like Ajiwika were struggling to raise funds because of the financial crisis. While development lenders such as FWWB and SIDBI were making some loans to smaller microfinance institutions, most of the banks had become extremely conservative in their lending. Banks often tend to work in an informal syndicate. If one bank lends then other banks are more inclined to follow. The converse also holds true, if the more development oriented banks become conservative, then the rest of the banks follow suit.

UnitedProsperity.org’s guarantee enabled one bank to lend to Ajiwika. Now that a mainstream bank was lending to Ajiwika, over the next six months several other banks have approved loans to Ajiwika.

The guarantee has had a catalytic effect. Not only did we directly support the entrepreneurs on our website, but we also provided the spark for freeing up funds locked with other banks to support many more entrepreneurs who are not listed on our website.

Barki Devi’s song of coming together to create a shared prosperity is apt indeed!!

Launch of operations

28 May

I am pleased to announce the launch of operations with Ajiwika, a microfinance institution (MFI), and HDFC Bank as our partners in India.

 

 It took us a year to sign the partnership agreement with HDFC Bank, but it is well worth it as HDFC lends to both large and small MFIs unlike most of the other banks that lend to only a few large MFIs.  Many of the MFIs United Prosperity will work with in India will be working in the less developed states of India and our partnership with HDFC will be crucial in making sure that microcredit reaches the people who need it the most.

 

We also signed our partnership agreement with Ajiwika, an MFI working in the state of Jharkhand.  Ajiwika is the first MFI in Jharkhand State in India. Ajiwika is operating in one of India’s poorest regions where over 80% of potential clients are un-served and where only a few MFIs operate. From my interactions with Ajiwika over the last one year I have been impressed by their commitment to social goals and their willingness to put the needs of the poor entrepreneurs first.

 

Looking back at the last 20 months in setting up United Prosperity, I am proud of our various achievements. Building a complex website in a very short time, putting together the legal documents for partnerships with banks and MFIs, analyzing the regulatory aspects in the US and website terms, setting up the partnership with HDFC bank, working with Ajiwika to upload and create entrepreneur profiles on our website, setting up the basic accounting processes – each of these tasks came with their own challenges.

 

I would like to thank each of our supporters – Cognizant, UC Berkeley Law School, O’Melveney & Myers, Hanson Bridgett, Tempus Law, NetSuite and Books2Taxes for their early and sustained support.

 

We are extremely fortunate to have a great team of nearly 50 people with experience, expertise and dedication to work with us and advise us. We would not have been at this point without their timely and invaluable contributions.  

 

I greatly appreciate the initiative of our first partners, HDFC Bank and Ajiwika, in adopting the unique guarantee model of United Prosperity.

 

I would like to thank our numerous well wishers who have used their personal and professional connections to help us in this endeavor and my wife Shubha, who has been a constant source of support and encouragement.

 

Thank you very much once again.