Simon and I are working with SKS microfinance and had an opportunity this week to travel to Bidar to see microfinance in action. It is something that is truly exciting for me as I have been interested in microfinance for quite a while but have never had an opportunity to see it in action. It was incredible to see and know that it is a real, living, breathing thing, not just something to be read about in journals and texts.
We started our field research off by going and observing a center meeting. It was really interesting to see what was going on, and although I couldn’t understand the language at all, I was still able to follow along relatively easily. The center collected funds from all the women and while the loan officer counted we were able to look at the passbooks and other documents. It was very interesting as well to see the meeting minutes where the women agreed with totals and signed to ensure the loan officer stated his collections correctly. The center leader went through and tallied the bills to ensure collections were accounted for properly and the loan officer verified all totals with the members. After collections were tabulated, members took out more loans. There were 3 loans requested but only 2 of the 3 were disbursed. The loan officer had to get consent of all the women to approve the loan (although the credit bureau came back positive) as they are jointly liable for the full amount. The 3rd loan was not disbursed because the member was unable to come to the meeting that day. The members paid their origination fee (and when one didn’t have the full amount for the insurance, another woman handed over an additional ₹50 to enable her to take out the loan. Once the loans were disbursed, the pledge was read again and the meeting was closed. We were able to ask a few questions and the women were great and answered them straight away.
We were also able to attend group training session. It was really cool to see how the group is taught about interest versus principle, how meetings are organized, the concept of working together etc. While at the training meeting, Simon and I glanced over to see a couple of monkeys hanging out in the tree right next to the house on which we were sitting. The trainer took us through a quick version of the training and the women got 3 days of information in a single 1 hour session. It was really great to see the training and experience what the women go through in order to begin taking out loans.