Indiamicrofinance.com I I4D Magazine I June09 Microfinance India
Vol. VII No. 6 June 2009 The ﬁrst monthly magazine on ICT4D
Microﬁnance: Leveraging ICTs
ICTs for Microﬁnance
One billion opportunities
Banking the Unbanked Globally
Information for development
w w w. i 4 d o n l i n e . n e t
Microﬁnance Sector in Ghana
The Road to Self-sufﬁciency
ICTs and Microﬁnance
ISSN 0972 - 804X
knowledge for change
Contents Vol. VII No. 6 June 2009
5 Editorial et
Fueling the growth 43 Global Conference on
Financing the Poor: Moving info@i4d
Beyond Inclusion, 29 December,
ICTs for Microﬁnance
6 Microﬁnance: Leveraging ICTs 2009, New Delhi, India
Sabyasachi Kashyap Exploring the impact of microﬁnance
Dinoj Kumar Upadhyay
Banking the Unbanked Globally
12 One billion opportunities
The i4d magazine is an extremely useful
resource for those of us who are practitioners
Gautam Bandyopadhyay Interview in the ﬁeld of ICT for D. It is well produced,
and has informative and enlightening content
16 Microﬁnance in India
Microﬁnance: A bigger picture 10 Rita Soni,
which is very helpful for us to keep up with
changes and developments in the ﬁeld. Many
Ritu Srivastava congratulations to the team!
Inclusion through Prashant Sharma
Microﬁnance Sector in Ghana innovation Deputy Executive Secretary and
19 Microﬁnancing Ghana Communications Manager
Veronica Agodoa Kitti Mountain Forum Secretariat, ICIMOD,
Accounting System in Orissa Columns firstname.lastname@example.org
e-Cashbook in Orissa panchayats
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Shreemanta Kumar Samal,
Sanjay Prakash Sahoo
45 What’s on
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46 Microfacts about microﬁnance
Internet Child Safety Foundation, Mauritius
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ZERO MASS Foundation
32 Development initiatives
community multimedia Gender and ICTs.
Snapshots of Hara Padhy
Best Microﬁnance Institutions microfinance
34 Forbes magazine’s top 50 MFIs solutions
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FAO-GTZ Microbanking System
40 Technology for microﬁnancing
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41 National Bank for Agriculture
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4 i4d | June 2009
Fueling the growth
Now that it has been widely accepted that microﬁnancing
does not have to be an enterprise that runs on a not-for-
profit basis, the challenge that faces us today is to make
microfinance more accessible, customised, and effective
Dr M P Narayanan, Chairman, i4d while ensuring sustainable growth of the sector as a whole.
Chin Saik Yoon
Southbound Publications, Malaysia
It has been rightly said that sound microﬁnancing strategies have the
United Nations University potential to alleviate global poverty. But to do so, we have to ﬁnd ways
Kenneth Keniston to reach the millions of unbanked and under-banked households
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA
who desperately need this support to get out of poverty and stay above the poverty line.
e-Leadership Academy, University of Maryland, USA
Several questions need to be answered and a similar number of challenges have to be
IDRC, Singapore overcome to reach our goals. With the aid of modern ICT tools it is possible to reach the last
Walter Fust mile and also serve the population living in remote areas. But technology is just one of the
Global Humanitarian Forum, Switzerland
components of this intervention with connectivity taking the lead among the related loops
UNESCO, France that need to be closed, apart from the capacity building needs for the population to be served.
Equally important is the creation of enabling policies that allow and, if required,
Akhtar Badshah, Frederick Noronha
incentivize the setting up of Microﬁnance Institutions (MFIs). Also imperative is strong
EDITORIAL TEAM regulation and monitoring of these MFIs to curb the incidences of MFI operators
Editor-in-Chief Dr Ravi Gupta running away with the savings of their victims. Since the target demography has
Assistant Editor Sandeep Budki
probably never been exposed to banking services, they also require ﬁnancial education.
Research Assistant Subir Dey
Sr. Graphic Designer Bishwajeet Kumar Singh
None of these issues can be taken in isolation and have to go hand in hand to provide
Graphic Designers Om Prakash Thakur, Shyam Kishore
succour from poverty to the disadvantaged citizens of the world.
Web Programmer Zia Salahuddin
G-4 Sector 39, NOIDA, UP, 201 301, India In this issue, we have tried to bring to you varied perspectives of how different countries,
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with an eye on gender equity. We hope you ﬁnd this issue informative and thought
provoking enabling us all to ﬁnd new ways to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
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Dr Ravi Gupta
Centre for Science, Development and
Media Studies, 2008
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June 2009 | www.i4donline.net 5
ICTS FOR MICROFINANCE
This article suggests Over the last decade or so, the world
seemed to have woken up to the reality
and fund transfers. In the last few years of its
existence, many organisations have jumped
the ways through that to empower the rural marginalised
communities and to alleviate the poverty
onto the microﬁnance bandwagon which
includes not-for proﬁt NGOs, development
which the existing scenario in the world, they need to be
given opportunities to save, borrow and
professionals, corporates, commercial
banks, international donor agencies, etc.
ICT tools and repay loans. Till a few years back, banking
institutions, for the purpose of offering
The reasons for the enthusiasm varies from
the belief that microﬁnance offers a good
technologies can banking services to the marginalised,
experimented with subsidised credit
developmental alternative to the belief,
especially among the commercial banks,
bring the poorer which affected the overall performance
of the banks and contributed to the rise
who have opened microﬁnance branches
for their microfinance operations, that
section of the in Non-Performing Assets (NPA). Thus
subsidised credit as an option gradually
microﬁnance offers a good, sound banking
option. The government has also routed
society in the ambit lost its popularity among banks. Moreover
more than the cost of credit, it was access
various developmental schemes through
microfinance. Microfinance leaders are
of the microﬁnance to credit which was considered as the
major barrier for the poor. With little or no
gaining prominence and it is said that
some of the leaders, particularly women,
services means to afford the collaterals/mortgages,
the poorer section of the society had to
have been taking a more active role in
other social spheres, including contesting
resort to unscrupulous moneylenders for elections for the panchayat and so on2.
loans which pushed them further into the The microfinance sector has grown
vicious cycle of indebtedness. The reason exponentially over the past few years and
behind this was access or the lack of it and the World Bank estimates that there are
not interest rate. now over 7000 Microﬁnance Institutions
Microﬁnance has come to be recognised (MFIs), serving some 16 million poor
as the most viable, efﬁcient and result- people in developing countries. The
oriented mode of ﬁnancially empowering total cash turnover of MFIs worldwide
the poor. For Robinson “Microfinance is estimated at US$2.5 billion and the
refers to small scale financial services potential for new growth is outstanding.
for both credits and deposits – that are It is estimated that worldwide, there are
provided to people who farm or ﬁsh or 13 million microcredit borrowers, with
herd; operate small or microenterprises USD 7 billion in outstanding loans, and
where goods are produced, recycled, generating repayment rates of 97 percent.
repaired, or traded; provide services; work It has been growing at a rate of 30 percent
for wages or commissions; gain income annual growth3.
from renting out small amounts of lands; However, several issues and impediments
vehicles, draft animals, or machinery and to the success of microfinance as an
tools; and to other individuals and local industry have cropped up, the primary of
groups in developing countries, in both them being: scalability and sustainiblity
rural and urban areas”.1 Microfinance of MFIs, and outreach and impact of the
also entails the condition of sustainably microfinance initiatives. Thousands of
delivering the services and is not merely MFIs around the globe are realising that the
firstname.lastname@example.org confined to credit (microcredit) but solution for the scaling up, and ensuring
encompasses in its range savings, insurance, maximum outreach and sustainability of
i4d | June 2009
palmtop computers is typically uploaded to the MIS at the end
of the day, either directly in the branch ofﬁce or via a remote
communications link. Furthermore, the roll-out of wireless
broadband infrastructure will enable these systems to be always
online resulting in true real-time data collection and monitoring
of the loan portfolio at branch and institutional levels.
One of the key challenges for MFIs is providing financial
services to clients in remote areas including rural areas where the
population density is low, the market is smaller and providing
service entails high costs. Correspondent Banking – whereby a
bank links itself with third party merchants located in remote
areas – has emerged as a solution for this problem of outreach.
Correspondents manage transactions on behalf of the partner
Photo Credit: CARE India institution and are remunerated on a fee-for-service basis. Bank
Correspondents are expected to be having long-term businesses,
MFIs lies in leveraging the beneﬁts of technology, more speciﬁcally and should be respected and trusted in their communities. The
information and communication technologies (ICTs). ICTs have Bank Correspondents should also be ‘ICT-enabled’; generally
opened new window of opportunities for the MFIs to reach out to equipped with equipments such as an Electronic Funds Transfer at
more people, controlling the risks making the business sustainable, Point of Sale (EFTPOS) device, barcode readers and/or keypads, a
and bringing down the costs of operation. With new softwares personal computer, etc. They are linked to the partner institution’s
specially designed to cater to the needs of the MFIs, mobile servers using a telephone line, cable or satellite link. Post ofﬁces,
phones, efﬁcient Management Information Systems, among supermarkets, general stores, grocery stores, telecentres, etc, are
others, technology can and will in the near future bring about a good examples of Banking Correspondents. In India, commercial
paradigm shift in the domain of microﬁnance. banking entities like State Bank of India, HDFC, have tied up
with the respective Service Centre Agencies(SCAs) in the states
ICT usage for MFIs under the framework of National eGovernance Plan (NeGP) to
The current discourse on and practice of microfinance has provide Banking Correspondent status to the Common Service
inevitably redirected itself through the ICT route for maximising Centres (CSCs) equipped with ICT infrastructure and provide
outreach and ensuring sustainability. Adoption of ICTs also brings microﬁnance services through them.
about business processes re-engineering because they povice
efﬁcient, transparent and cost-effective mechanisms to run the Credit cards, and ATMs
business of MFIs. MFIs have readily adopted ICTs for they have In today’s world of banking, consumer credit cards are an
been looking for a change agent that will harness the beneﬁts of indispensable part of the bouquet of services offered by a ﬁnancial
ICT tools for best possible management and reduce costs, time institution. Some of the advantages of consumer credit cards
and efforts. are reduced costs associated with small transaction lending,
unsecured credit, small transactions, and pre-defined credit
Management Information Systems (MIS) limits. Other salient features of credit cards include on-demand
To monitor the quality, sustainability, and efﬁciency of the loan borrowing, re-draw facility, and repayment ﬂexibility within
portfolio, to measure its development impact, and properly pre-deﬁned guidelines. Since these services address the needs of
manage the administration tasks of an MFI, computerised small borrowers also due to their potential to relieve them from
Management Information Systems comes in very handy. MIS are their dependency on moneylenders for the same set of services
the most fundamental aspect of an MFI’s hi-tech infrastructure that are not provided by MFIs. Due to this utility of credit
and it is difﬁcult for an MFI to upscale signiﬁcantly and maintain cards the concept of Microcredit Cards have emerged and with
the accuracy and transparency of its loan portfolio without an more opportunities. A credit card enabled MFI can implement
MIS that can grow with the institution. There is no denying the microfinance tuned credit-scoring alogrithm which ensures
fact that an appropriate backofﬁce MIS is the backbone of ICT that clients who have proved their credit worthiness over time
innovation for the delivery of microﬁnance services. through successful business transactions with MFIs can have their
However, for MIS to really contribute to the efﬁciency of the credit limit increased and be given access to additional sources
MFI, it has to be accurate, and up to date. MFIs ﬁnd it difﬁcult of credit. Smart cards have an embedded computer chip that can
to maintain updated records as they have their ofﬁces in remote store client and transaction data, as well as process information.
locations which rely on manual data-entry and paper based Smart cards function as electronic passbooks, thereby reducing
transaction records. ICT innovations like mobile computing reliance on printed receipts. However, the introduction of card
applications and palmtops at the hands of the loan ofﬁcers who based services would demand setting up of EFTPOS functionality
can directly record the transaction into the MIS can make this and/or Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs). Because all relevant
system more efﬁcient and up to date. The data entered into the client data is stored on the card,
June 2009 | www.i4donline.net
the options because of the ubiquity of its use and popularity even
among the poorer section of the society. It is estimated there
will be three billion mobile subscribers in the world by 2010.
World GSM Association, further adds that mobile phone is the
ﬁrst and only communication technology to have more users
in developing countries than in developed countries. Mobile
phones have become mobile wallets by facilitating electronic
payments in exchange for goods and services. m-Commerce has
assumed tremendous signiﬁcance under the circumstances and
this development in m-commerce has positively affected the
microﬁnance industry also with usages like facilitating savings
deposits, loan repayments and other funds transfers. For the cost
of sending an SMS message, the phone user/microﬁnance client
uses an application stored on his mobile phone to initiate a transfer
from his mobile phone account to his bank account.
In tune with the emergence of service delivery technologies, various
softwares have also been developed by technology innovators
helping the microﬁnance industry to tackle challenges associated
with efﬁciency, transparency, outreach and sustainability. The
softwares and tools like, FINO (Financial Information Network
and Operations), SafalFin, etc., vary in their nature and function.
However, their utility to the smooth functioning of the operations
are subject to speculation as some of the softwares come with high
investments which a startup MFI may not be in a position to
afford. However, low cost solutions like Computer Munshi System
developed by an Indian NGO named Pradaan has promised to
address this issue of affordability for MFIs. Built at low cost, this
MFIs can utilise EFTPOS systems and ATMs that do not software aims to improve book keeping of the Self Help Groups
need to be always online. This is a signiﬁcant advantage in areas (SHGs) as also to improve transparency, equity and longevity of
where telecommunication services are unreliable and/or expensive. its groups. The model basically aims to improve the accounting
One more value addition to the services of MFIs are the use of and book keeping of the SHGs.4
biometric technology (such as ﬁngerprint scanners) which ensure
client identiﬁcation as well as privacy and data security. Conclusion
In a nutshell, various experiments for integrating microﬁnance
Internet banking and ICT have been undertaken and even more numbers are
Internet Banking, in many ways, has revolutionised the banking going to come in the future. The issue however, is to enable
scenario as it provides clients with real-time information about the MFIs to meet their goals by helping them have maximum
their accounts, and the ability to transfer funds between their outreach, be sustainable and be transparent in their business
accounts. It has become an integral part of the banking operations and processes. ICT can only be an enabler, and not the driver,
and by giving clients the liberty of using their own convenient and the real success of MFIs has to be measured vis-a-vis their
time to bank, and that too without having to visit the bank, it has social performance and not by their ICT/technology readiness
become an empowering tool. MFIs, however, face the challenge and preparedness.
of limited or more often than not no access to Internet services
of their clients. The rural telecentre network, being rolled out References:
across the developing world, could come in handy here too, by 1. Robinson, Marguerite S, ‘Microﬁnance: the Paradigm Shift from Credit Delivery
providing access to the clients. to Sustainable Financial Intermediation’, in Mwangi S Kimenyi, Robert C
Wieland and J D Von Pischke (eds), 1998, Strategic Issues in Microﬁnance,
Mobile banking Ashgate Publishing: Aldershot
Cellular phones, especially with GSM backbone, due to its 2. Microﬁnance: An Introduction by R Srinivaan and M S Sriram in Round Table,
accessibility and affordability are becoming an indispensable IIMB Management Review, June 2003, (Pg-52-53)
communication tool for the poor in the developing countries. 3. Hari Srinivas, The Global Development Research Centre (GDRC),http://www.
As per the World GSM Association report, during the year gdrc.org/icm/data/d-snapshot.html accessed on 29-05-2009
2003-2006, more than 800 million mobile phones were sold in 4. Report of the Steering Committee on Microﬁnance and Poverty Alleviation, The
developing countries. Mobile phones in today’s scenario have Eleventh Five Year Plan, (2007-08 - 2011-12), Development Policy Division,
become the only option for communication from being one of Planning Commission, New Delhi, May - 2007, Pg-28
i4d | June 2009
te r Security
Disas ent HIV/AIDS s
gem and tool
Mana ICTs Environmental 2.0 unity
eWaste for owerm
So ICT and
Net cial MSMEs
The Fuel Crisis ppo ics and
O it s tin
Community and Pol ICT udge ing
and Assertive R
ights: Climate Change er B eam
Sexual and Radio end instr
Reproductive R in Gd Ma
Learning Drinking Water
The O Grassroots Sanitation
Move pen ICT
ment Statistics Innovations
Ne w g
Lear ys Internet
Another year of i4d is here.
A host of issues are to be talked about.
Do you work on any of these areas ?
Do you have a project that should be covered ?
Are you an expert on any of the themes ?
Are you interested to collaborate ?
Write to us at: email@example.com
INTERVIEW: RITA SONI, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT AND COUNTRY HEAD - RESPONSIBLE BANKING, YES BANK,
In an interview with
from CSDMS, Rita Soni
talks about YES BANK’s
foray into financial
inclusion by banking and
microfinancing through the
Internet, ATMs, debit cards
and mobile channels.
Senior Vice President and Country
Head-Responsible Banking, YES BANK
As per the latest census, almost one fourth of the population in products and services to un-banked/under-banked, low-income
India lives Below Poverty Line. What role do you see banking communities across urban and rural India.
institutions like YES BANK playing here? As of March 2009, Wholesale Lending stood at USD 60
At YES BANK, we are working towards sustainable solutions to million with 16 MFIs, covering an estimated 500,000 clients in
poverty through ﬁnancial interventions by mainstream banking over 1000+ villages. YES BANK offers a comprehensive package
activities. Utilising sustainable and mainstream approaches allows of banking and advisory services, dovetailed with the expertise of
us to reach the scale which is necessary to reach the 800 million relevant business units within the Bank to use structured capital
Indians living on less than US$2 per day. In our young bank, market products to help MFIs leverage access to cost-effective
we have chosen to focus on ‘Responsible Banking’, promoting funds from a broader pool of sophisticated investors. The Bank
ﬁnancial inclusion and business solutions to social issues. works as a holistic ﬁnancial solutions provider working with
Where does ﬁnancial inclusion ﬁt into YES BANK’s scheme different stakeholders, i.e., mainstream investors, rating agencies,
of “Responsible Banking”? policymakers and technology vendors resulting in an aggregation
YES BANK is committed to creating equal ﬁnancial opportunities of services, cutting-edge innovation and thought leadership
and enabling ﬁnancial inclusion, but it is our emphasis on required to create a conducive environment for growth of the
innovation which is making the real impact. For instance, in industry.
microﬁnance the vision is to go beyond offering plain vanilla YES BANK also stands out for its focus on urban poverty
banking to providing the industry access to the mainstream capital using individual lending methodology in a market that has largely
markets. This approach helps MFIs achieve scale at a lower cost executed group lending to rural women. One of the ground
of funds, thereby resulting in affordable ﬁnancial products for breaking features of our model is the fact that in setting up the
the Base of the Pyramid (BOP). YES BANK has a two-pronged ﬁrst institutionally sponsored direct intervention model for
microﬁnance strategy to provide easy access to suitable ﬁnancial microﬁnance, the Bank has created a benchmark institution that
i4d | June 2009
becomes the reference point for what our wholesale practice strives a vision to address issues of rural India through the previously
for in terms of helping transform partner MFIs into commercially mentioned innovative ﬁnancial interventions, complemented with
viable ﬁnancial services providers for the BOP. Direct Lending is expert advisory services and thought leadership. These practices in
accomplished through YES SAMPANN (Hindi for fulﬁllment), microﬁnance, ARSB, advisory and thought leadership go beyond
currently in its pilot phase with a portfolio of 2000+ micro- the banking sector regulator, Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) directed
entrepreneurs. The business is projected to reach a client base of credit policy mandated through its Priority Sector Lending (PSL)
a 1,000,000 with a portfolio size in excess of USD 100 million in requirement, and adopts the spirit of addressing poverty to the
5 years offering products such as micro loans for working capital, core. Below are speciﬁc examples where this combination approach
insurance and savings schemes. has yielded results:
In 2008, YES BANK worked with Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd.
Across the world, there is widespread recognition that (JISL) to reach nearly 50,000 small and marginal farmers across
information and communication technologies (ICTs) have India. As a testament to this ‘business solution to social issue’,
tremendous potential in facilitating the inclusion of the the BANK conducted a comprehensive sustainability report for
underserved/un-banked population into the banking network. JISL, outlining both the manner in which they operate as well as
Can you share your views about this? speciﬁc social and environmental initiatives.
Bridging the technology gap between the urban and rural Another important rural client is Buldana Urban Credit
population through ICT is undeniably a step in the right direction, Cooperative Society. The ﬁnancing from YES BANK reaches
however YES BANK feels that unless discrepancies in the content, approximately 8,000 rural households across western Maharashtra.
standards and delivery of basic, primary/secondary education and The Cooperative has a unique approach of ‘social banking’ which
vocational training programmes are proactively addressed, the has built the institution and met the needs of its members. In
effectiveness of ICT led initiatives will be greatly hindered. This addition to these ﬁnancial services, the Bank conducted a detailed
opinion and mode of thinking has spurred YES BANK to begin study of the approach, uncovering a gamut of best practices that
forging working relationships with NGOs and social businesses can be applied by urban and rural banks.
currently working in the education and ICT space to develop The Bank also plays the role of thought leader in several areas
effective educational content, especially in the realms of ﬁnancial including poverty issues. As an example, YES BANK and the
literacy, in order to enhance the national curriculum and skills American India Foundation jointly wrote a report highlighting the
development programmes in rural and urban India. social and economic issues surrounding rural to urban migration
in the country. A key feature of the report ‘Managing the Exodus’
What are YES BANK’s initiatives in providing banking is ways to provide rural populations employment opportunities
facilities to the underserved population in the rural areas? and social services through the public private partnership model
In addition to the microﬁnance initiatives already mentioned, in a bid to mitigate their migration to urban areas.
YES BANK also has a dedicated focus in the area of ‘Farmer In addition to ﬁnancing Shriram Transport Finance Company
Financing’. The Agri-Business, Rural and Social Banking (ARSB) Ltd. (STFCL), YES BANK facilitated an HIV/AIDS awareness
team develops innovative ﬁnancial models, which leverage the programme for their trucker clients. This programme brought the
outreach of various stakeholders in the Agri Value Chain to Bank forward to form knowledge partnerships and synergies with
address ‘last mile’ issues. In the last year, the Bank has disbursed the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative (CHAI) and the Red Cross.
approximately INR 700 crores in direct farmer financing, The programme has reached out to 14 locations, 10 states and
impacting approximately 140,000 farmers. ARSB works closely over 10,000 truckers who have been sensitized since this project
with Swiss Re and Agriculture Insurance Company of India (AIC) began in October 2007.
to facilitate the development and distribution of need-based
insurance products for the agriculture sector, such as weather Are the branches operating in the rural areas providing
insurance for grapes in the Nashik region. ‘anytime anywhere banking’ facilities? If yes, could you share
As an example, YES BANK recently announced its partnership your experiences with this?
with Zameen Organic, a farmer-owned producer company aimed A standard feature in all our branches, urban and rural, we offer
at closer collaboration between farmers and companies to fortify ‘Anytime Anywhere Banking’ through the Internet, ATM, Debit
inclusive and sustainable growth while building a transparent Card and Mobile Channels. Customers can also transfer funds
supply chain. This alliance intends to create equal opportunities for at their convenience, from home or ofﬁce, to over 53,000 bank
producers and workers who have been economically marginalised branches across the country using the NEFT and RTGS facility.
because of the conventional trading system. The business model They are also given complimentary multi-city payable at par
empowers 6500 farmers to have effective and end-to-end control cheque books for ease of payments. Under the aegis of the ‘One
on the ‘Fair Trade Organic Cotton’ supply chain which has resulted Branch’ model, customers can access their account from any of
in improved economic condition of farmers from the Adilabad the 117 state-of-the-art YES BANK branches, at no extra charge.
(Andhra Pradesh) and Vidharbha (Maharashtra) region. We were also one of the ﬁrst few banks to offer complimentary
access to over 32,000 ATMs in the country. Our technology edge
Could you elaborate a bit more about your experiences in imparts ‘reach and easy’ access to our rural branches and our
the rural areas? ‘anytime anywhere’ facilities have received encouraging response
Within the Responsible Banking framework, YES BANK has in rural areas.
June 2009 | www.i4donline.net
BANKING THE UNBANKED GLOBALLY
Introduction what banks can do to capitalise on this • Simplicity and speed in processing
Look and you’ll see an exciting landscape opportunity. • Small product sizes when it comes
emerging in the banking arena. One where to loans and low-balance savings
there is a billion-strong market actively How to bank the unbanked accounts
seeking financial services but remains In China and India only about a third of • Proximity and ease of access
largely unattended to. These globally the population participates in the formal • Ba s i c f i n a n c i a l e d u c a t i o n o r
distributed prospective customers represent banking sector. In Africa the number is just information since the unbanked
enormous earning potential for banks, but 25 percent. India has the second-highest may not understand even elementary
constitute the unbanked. number of ﬁnancially excluded households concepts of banking
The unbanked are those who do not in the world – 135 million – after China’s Most banks ﬁnd it difﬁcult to meet
utilise banking services and have limited 263 million. Africa as a whole has 230 these needs because of the high economic
banking needs. The unbanked are not million unbanked households, and Central cost of servicing these demands. However,
the poorest of the poor. However, they and Eastern Europe and Latin America have a little out-of-the box thinking in devising
certainly include those whom banks need 19 million and 42 million, respectively. products that are simple and accessible can
to serve but cannot do so proﬁtably in the But irrespective of where in the help ensure inclusive growth.
existing banking environment. Though world they might be, this unbanked Some of these measures could include
these consumers need access to banking section of society has similar needs for tying up with an NGO or with a retailer and
for savings, loans and microﬁnance, they ﬁnancial services. Apart from the obvious using village residents and empowerment
do not have bank accounts. The reasons requirements of savings, loans, transactions, groups as representatives. These can
for this are compelling. and investments, the unbanked have lower customer acquisition costs and
• Lack of steady and substantial income certain special needs, which are: increase customer base, thus helping
leading to a fear of insufﬁcient funds • Flexibility in savings and repayment banks overcome the high cost challenge.
for an account schedules owing to a lack of steady Such groups also help banks mitigate risks
• Limited access to banks, especially in income associated with dealing with the unbanked.
remote areas An estimated 2.6 million self-help groups
• Lack of formal employment that in India are linked to banks, giving
precludes a ﬁnancial history ﬁnancial institutions access to 40 million
• Poor ﬁnancial literacy
• Psychological factors such as mistrust
This paper aims to households.
It is important that the products are
of ﬁnancial institutions educate the banking downsized without being downgraded to
This unbanked billion is not outside the match the unbanked population’s smaller
banking sector by choice. An important sector to reach out to requirements by offering low installments
reason for their predicament is that banks and flexible repayment options. Banks
do not offer them suitable products the unbanked masses also require performance metrics and
tailored to their needs. In effect, they have regulatory conditions that are more suited
been excluded by the banks’ inability to around the world to including the unbanked in the ﬁnancial
understand their requirements and the mainstream.
unwillingness to adopt innovative models
by giving examples Some banks are using inter-industry
to serve them.
However, this billion also constitutes
from across the globe partnerships to increase ﬁnancial inclusion.
For example, banks in Brazil have added
an enormous opportunity – if banks about initiatives of 100,000 point-of-sale locations to distribute
are willing to accept the challenge of products by tying up with retailers.
including them with an eye on the bigger some enterprising Not only are these channels cheaper for
picture. This paper provides a regional banks but they are also more convenient
perspective to this issue and examines banking entities for consumers.
i4d | June 2009
Banks must realise – and they are seeing the light – that since Mobile banking is another way of reaching out to such customers
the unbanked have remained unaddressed by traditional ﬁnancial and is also a huge opportunity for banks in India. According to
institutions, they will not hesitate to choose newer players for a TRAI report, the total number of mobile subscribers by March
basic banking services such as payment and deposit transactions. 31, 2008 was 261.08 million as against last year’s 165.09 million
Collaborating with telecom players, adding a mobile channel, and (an increase of 58.14 percent). This ﬁgure shows that in just
utilising cross-selling opportunities will go a long way in meeting three years, the number of mobile subscribers has grown over 4.5
the needs of the unbanked. times. India is adding more subscribers per month than any other
In many emerging economies, mobile consumers are growing at country. According to the GSM Association (Global Association
a much faster rate than bank customers. Mobile banking is taking for GSM Providers), the next billion subscribers will come from
off because it is convenient, fast, simple, and secure. Moreover, the BOP (Bottom of the Pyramid) market, of which India will
it is a cost-effective option for banks. Gartner has estimated that have the largest share. The growth of mobile phone subscribers
there will be 33 million mobile payment users worldwide in 2008, is outpacing the growth of banking customers as also PC and
with the Asia Paciﬁc taking the lead. Gartner expects this number Internet users in India.
to triple to 103.9 million users in 2011. In 2006, banks were allowed to take the help of NGOs
Other forms of branchless banking and e-payment gateways and microfinance institutions as intermediaries in offering
such as payment cards and the Internet can also help banks increase banking services through the use of correspondents. This was
their outreach. Banks need to experiment and include the next perhaps a factor for many banks that opened six million no frills
billion consumers not merely for the socio-economic assistance accounts with low or zero minimum balances between March
they will gain. The step will also have a strong business imperative 2006 and 2007.
for banks. Not only will a bank increase its customer base, but ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Citibank have launched their
it will also ensure increasing numbers of future customers as own microfinance programmes. HDFC Bank thus has tied
incomes increase. up with NGOs in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu to make
Let us examine how banks are reaching the unbanked in various ﬁnancial services accessible to the rural poor. Citibank has linked
parts of the world, namely, India, China, Eastern Europe, parts up with NGOs. Standard Chartered plans to lend $100 million
of Africa, and Latin America. for micro-ﬁnancing by 2008, up from current commitments of
India Banks are looking at technology to provide banking services at
The Indian banking market is zooming, with assets expected to low cost – and this includes rural banking too. Citi has set up a
reach $1 trillion by 2010. An expanding economy, a growing bio-metric ATM as a part of its ‘no frills’ Pragati account for the
middle class, and technological innovations are contributory under-banked. The ATM recognises the customer through their
factors, according to a Celent report, ‘Overview of Indian thumb impression and can interact in regional languages.
The industry is focusing on the retail side of the market, with China
a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 23 percent in Estimates about the numbers of unbanked Chinese vary. The
the past ﬁve years. However, despite this thrust on retail banking, People’s Bank of China (PBC) estimates that only 36 percent
banks will have to come up with creative and simple solutions to of Chinese rural households have access to ﬁnancial services. As
make money in India. This is because India has a huge unbanked one indicator of demand, the informal ﬁnance market has been
population and unless this is included, neither will banks prosper, estimated at anywhere between CNY 1 trillion ($132 billion) to
nor the country. CNY 2 or 3 trillion.
Banks have also realised the potential of this market and But the bigger Chinese banks have for many years now
have come up with innovative means of reaching it. They are been moving out of rural areas, goaded by commercialisation
going back to rural pockets for ﬁnancial inclusion. State Bank and competitive pressures. According to the State Council
of India is drawing up plans to reach out to 100,000 villages. In Development Research Centre (DRC), the four big state banks
September 2007, ABN Amro Bank announced its microﬁnance have reduced their presence in rural areas by over 43 percent in
division had provided basic ﬁnancial support to some 500,000 ten years, closing 30,000 branches in the last ﬁve years alone.
Building more branches in the countryside may not always The Chinese government has launched several initiatives
be cost-effective. So banks need to explore other options by to test out new forms of rural financial service providers.
developing a better understanding of what rural households need Among them:
and offer new products and distribution networks to suit them. • The People’s Bank of China in December 2005 launched
Providing banking services through ‘Banking Correspondents’ a pilot initiative to establish Microcredit Companies using
represented by self-help groups, NGOs and other approved commercial licensing
organisations is one branchless banking mechanism. Touch-points • The China Banking Regulatory Commission in December
may be set up by such organisations at places commonly visited by 2006 introduced their own pilot, creating new types of
the unbanked, such as the village markets or schools. This may be licenses for rural ﬁnancial institutions
supplemented by outreach teams equipped with hand-held devices McKinsey believes that given the reliance on cash in rural
on which simple banking transactions can be performed. China and that additional ATMs do not appear to be the answer,
June 2009 | www.i4donline.net
the existing mobile Short Message Service network could quickly banking options. This also offers banks a channel for growth.
and cheaply provide an SMS-based payment system in rural Similarly, post offices, which constitute more than 50
areas. Since the most expensive parts of the infrastructure — the percent of the physical infrastructure for access to the ﬁnancial
network and phones — are in place, this solution would be sector, could provide an innovative POS alternative to reach out
relatively low in cost, between $40 million and $60 million. By to the unbanked.
forming a partnership, banks, network operators and merchants According to the August 2003 Datamonitor report, banks in
could unlock spending. the region are looking to move beyond branch-centric distribution.
The Chinese largely rely on cash payments, thus increasing the This includes extending ATM networks and looking at online and
importance of the cash-based e-payment channel. Some leading phone banking. The highest growth in IT spending was expected
third-party payment providers are adding cash-based and non- to come from Romania and Bulgaria.
bank based payment options to their offerings. These include:
1. Cash remittance: Alipay is a third-party payment provider, Africa
allowing users to top up accounts with cash through China’s According to the IMF, African countries are enjoying their
postal service. This service was launched in March 2007 in best period of sustained economic expansion since attaining
selected China Post branches throughout China. independence. Real GDP growth is expected to rise from 5.7
2. Mobile toll stations: Smartpay, China’s leading mobile top- percent in 2006 to 6.8 percent in 2008. Still, only 20 percent of
up company, has formed a network of approximately 30,000 families in Africa have bank accounts.
dealers. Smartpay dealers allow users with bank accounts to
easily use Smartpay’s services, which in turn gives Smartpay
access to a much wider range of potential users.
3. Targeting the unbanked with pre-paid cards: e-payment
player IPS uses mobile and telephone prepaid cards in order
to reach unbanked users. This service takes advantage of the
popularity of prepaid top-up cards used for phone bills, online
games, and virtual currencies in China. The cards are usually
purchased with cash at newspaper kiosks, small shops, and
internet cafes. IPS operates a service called Ipay.
In Poland, only 50 percent of the country’s population has a bank
account, according to ING Group. Banking penetration was 69
percent in Hungary at the end of 2003.
Many East European (EE) residents avoid setting up bank Katimba market, Central Kampala, Uganda. Credit sln.org.uk
accounts because they lack conﬁdence in the banking system.
This mindset is gradually changing as governments encourage Ethopia has less than one bank branch per 100,000 people – a
salary payments directly into bank accounts. developed nation like Spain has an average of 96 branches. Even
Austria’s Erste Bank has the largest network in the region and in South Africa, where the sector is more sophisticated, only 40
intends to target the unbanked in Hungary, the Czech Republic, percent of adults have bank accounts. But there is a huge demand
Croatia, Serbia and Romania. Western banks in EE are focusing for bank services. Finding this demand unfulﬁlled, millions of
on meeting the needs of the younger population. In Poland, only Africans turn to informal services or invest in cattle.
49 percent of people over the age of 15 have a bank account, But banks are increasingly adopting innovative methods. South
according to Polish research company Pentor. Africa has physically taken branches to the unbanked, either as
Almost 40 percent of Poles who participated in a recent banking prefabricated units, or in vans that make visits to under-served
survey attributed the low level of banking penetration to their lack areas. In remote areas, machines have been installed in shops where
of savings. Only 5 percent of Polish people use Internet banking, customers print out a slip and present it to the shopkeeper, who
against an average of 24 percent in Europe as a whole; 4 percent provides the cash. Some rural branches and ATMs rely on solar
of Poles use telephone banking services compared with 7 percent energy and satellite phone.
in Europe, according to Forrester Research. The ‘Big Four’ banks of South Africa (ABSA, First National
To make it easier for Poles to access banking products, ING Bank, Nedbank Group and Standard Bank) and the government
Bank Slaski, the Polish operation of ING Group, has simpliﬁed developed the innovative Mzansi account in 2003 which is a
some products. The new offerings include a savings account which low-cost transaction account. It enables banks to cover at least
offers one ﬂat interest rate and a low-interest credit card. 70 percent of the unbanked market in a relatively short time.
Plastic card technology is expected to present the banking The government provided a small subsidy to cover the cost. It is
industry with an important means of tapping the unbanked targeted at people who earn less than R2,000 (US$264) a month.
market. Moreover, according to Global Insight, electronic It now has more than 4 million subscribers.
payments are expected to grow from $3.8 billion in 1999 to $25.8 Studies conducted by Genesis Analytics for the Finmark Trust
billion in 2009, thus indicating greater use of non-traditional in 2004 have suggested that point-of-sale (POS) facilities can play
i4d | June 2009
an increasingly important role in providing the unbanked access
to basic ﬁnancial services in South Africa.
West African financial services biggies Zenith Bank and
Ecobank and multinationals Citibank and the International
Finance Corporation have set up the Acción Microﬁnance Bank in
Nigeria. It aims to provide low income earners and entrepreneurs
with credit facilities and ﬁnance.
Mobile banking seems to be the most promising option in
Africa. Few Africans may have bank accounts, but many have
mobile phones. Wizzit (a financial services provider), First
National Bank (FNB) and MTN Banking (a joint venture between
Standard Bank and a mobile-phone network), are targeting the
14 million unbanked South Africans.
In Kenya and Botswana, 17 percent of the unbanked own El Alto Market. Credit fellowsblog.kiva.org
a mobile phone, according to the FinMark Trust. In Kenya,
Vodafone and Safaricom, Kenya’s leading mobile operator, about 5.1 million customers and 1800 branches. It has grown
launched an m-commerce payment service, M-PESA, aimed at the steadily in recent years by concentrating on personal lending,
unbanked in March 2006. Within three months, it had 150,000 car ﬁnancing, insurance, and investment funds. It helps that
customers, with 2,500 new users signing up each day. local interest rates are dropping and that Brazil’s government
First Bank linked-up with Nigeria’s second biggest mobile has introduced incentives to increase credit. For example,
operator, Globacom. The partners introduced the GloFirst card payroll loans, whereby installments are debited from paychecks
in conjunction with the switching company Interswitch. GloFirst are now permitted.
can be used to withdraw money, check card balance, print mini In Brazil, banks are using nonbanking outlets, such as kiosks
statements, change the Personal Identiﬁcation Number (PIN) and and even supermarkets, to reach customers. However, the central
transfer money to another cash card or bank account. bank’s efforts in the way of promoting community representatives
or agents and microﬁnance efforts are slowly bringing more of the
Latin America unbanked into the mainstream.
Chile reports the highest penetration and the lowest percentage However, obstacles remain: agent-handled accounts are subject
of its population living below the poverty level. It is followed by to transaction limitations, interest rate caps render microcredit
Brazil, where the majority of households have checking accounts unproﬁtable and credit information is scanty.
because most payrolls in the formal economy are disbursed Electronic payments in Latin America are slowly taking off, but
electronically. Until recently, 40 million Brazilians had no access are hampered by factors such as low income and lack of banking
to banking services. Nonetheless, access to consumer credit in penetration. Banks are trying to keep the reform momentum
Brazil is mostly limited to the middle and upper class, and even going. For example, Mexico has launched a three-year public-
foreign banks target primarily customers with an annual income private initiative to expand the number of chip-enabled point of
of at least $20,000. sale terminals. The goal is to divert the use of cash taken from
In Mexico, the formal banking sector has targeted only the ATMs to POS debit-card transactions in its continuing battle to
top 15 percent of the population, while the other 85 percent is suppress the informal economy.
considered too risky and unproﬁtable. Now, however, more foreign
banks in the sector have begun to pay closer attention to the retail Conclusion
credit card business and other remittance-linked products. In The numbers involved in meeting the needs of the unbanked
Colombia, where 55 percent of the population lives under poverty may seem daunting, but in reality they represent a billion-strong
level, access to bank credit is low at 23 percent. opportunity for banks. By paying greater attention to their wants
Therefore, Latin America’s huge unbanked population offers an and developing sensitivity to their needs, banks will be able to
enormous opportunity for banks recognising their potential. To develop customised products and include the unbanked in their
serve the banking needs of a relatively low-income economy with scheme of things.
low penetration requires innovative and imaginative non-branch Banks may do well to remember that they have a business
solutions. Microﬁnance and IT are enabling banks to serve the imperative in converting the periphery into the mainstream.
excluded at relatively lower costs. Banks are also helping create Gautam Bandyopadhyay
ﬁnancial literacy with the help of community leaders. Principal Consultant at Infosys Technologies
Bancomer, one of Mexico’s nationalised banks, is reaching out
to the lower-income segment by offering simpliﬁed and more References:
accessible products, such as pre-paid credit cards or cards with ﬁxed Research by Boston Consulting Group
monthly payments. To cultivate a culture of savings in Mexico, Research by Celent
Bancomer has made available a savings account-debit card combo
for a minimum deposit of about $70. The Financial Express
Santander Banespa, a Spanish-backed bank in Brazil, manages
June 2009 | www.i4donline.net
MICROFINANCE IN INDIA
A bigger picture
The term, ‘Microfinance’ refers to the services. Some major initiatives include that the NFBC must have a minimum
provision of a broad range of ﬁnancial the bank linkage programme under US$ 46,511.6 Net Owned Funds (NOF)
services to low-income households the guidance and supervision of the that will make it eligible to accept public
and their microenterprises. Financial National Bank for Agriculture and Rural deposits. RBI introduced a new regulatory
services generally include microsavings, Development (NABARD) in 1992, the framework for the NBFCs in 1998, focused
microcredit, money transfer vehicles setting of the Rashtriya Mahila Kosh to on NFBC accepting public deposits with
and microinsurance. Microfinance re-ﬁnance microﬁnance activities of NGOs a view to safeguarding the interests of the
services are generally provided by formal in 1993 and the establishment of Small depositors. RBI also established a Micro
institutions, such as rural banks and Industries Development Bank of India Credit Special Cell in 1999-2000 to
cooperatives, semiformal institutions (SIDBI) Foundation for Micro-Credit suggest measures for augmenting ﬂow of
such as non-government organisations; (SFMC) as a ﬁnancier of Microﬁnance microcredit. In the same year, NABARD
and informal sources like money lenders Institutions (MFIs). On the policy front, established the Task Force on Supportive
and shopkeepers. RBI has come out with directives on Policy and Regulatory Framework for Micro
various aspects of microﬁnance provision. Credit. Based on the recommendations of
Need of microfinance in India Releasing the fact that Self-Help Groups the Advisory Committee on Flow of Credit
Statistics from the World Bank estimates (SHGs) and NGOs are a priority sector, to Agriculture and Related Activities from
that more than 87 percent of India’s poor RBI engaged them in microfinance the Banking System, in its Annual Policy
can not access credit from formal sources business by registering them as Non- Statement for the year 2004-05, RBI
and therefore have to depend on money Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs). stated, in view of the need to protect the
lenders who charge them exorbitant As a result, commercial banks, regional interests of depositors, MFIs would not be
interest rates ranging from 48% to 120% rural banks (RRBs) and cooperative banks permitted to accept public deposits unless
per annum or even higher. This shows have also emerged as important channels they complied with the extant regulatory
that the potential market of small money of microﬁnance provision. framework of the Reserve Bank.
lenders, who can lend money according to Through the RBI (Amendment) Act, T h e Mi c ro Fi n a n c i a l Se c t o r
the demand for ﬁnancial services for this 1997, RBI made it obligatory for NBFCs to (Development and Regulation) Bill,
section of the society. The provision of such apply to RBI for certiﬁcate of registration. 2007, was introduced in March 2007
services, if implemented correctly, could One of the conditions for application was which applies only to three categories of
have a significant impact
on the poor. Releasing this Table 1: Growth of linked SHG’s in the regions
fact, under the Reserve
Bank of India Act, 1934, % %
RBI undertook regulation March March March March increase between increase between Share of Share of BPL
and supervision of all the 2004 2005 2006 2007 2005-06 2006-07 population population
banks promoting and doing North 52,396 86018 133097 182018 6% 6% 13% 7%
microﬁnance. North 12278 34238 62517 91754 3% 3% 4% 3%
Regulatory East 158237 265628 18% 18%
394351 525881 22% 29%
microfinance in Central 127009 197365 267915 332729 12% 11% 25% 32%
India West 54815 96266 166254 270447 7% 9% 15% 14%
In early 1990s, there have
South 674356 939941 1214431 1522144 54% 52% 21% 15%
been many signiﬁcant state
initiatives in the institutional All India 1079091 1618456 2238565 2924973 100% 100% 100% 100%
and policy spheres to enable
the poor access financial Source: Poverty Estimates for 2004-05, PIB, Government of India, New Delhi, March, 2007
i4d | June 2009
not-for-proﬁt MFIs: societies, trusts and cooperatives. These Table 2: Region-wise growth in outreach in 2003-04 and 2004-05
are collectively referred to in the bill as Micro Finance MFIs by No. of Outreach - FY Annual Growth Annual Growth
Organisations (MFOs). regional MFIs 2005 (%) in outreach (%) in outreach
distribution FY 2005 FY 2004
Progress under the SHG Bank Linkage East 18 332476 61.12 32.68
West 2 6,738 31.4 42.15
India has seen an average annual growth rate of 82 percent in
providing microﬁnance services through SHGs in the period from North 3 91317 11.34 19.5
March 1993 to March 2006, in relation to a 110 percent growth South 45 1710323 67.5 51.73
rate in terms of credit amount. SHG Bank Linkage Programme
Total 68 2140854 62.86 45.94
has proved to be the major supplementary credit delivery system
with wide acceptance by banks, NGOs and various government Source: Poverty Estimates for 2004-05, PIB, Government of India, New Delhi,
departments. During the financial year 2005-2006, around March, 2007
620,109 SHGs were linked under the SHG Bank Linkage Table 2 shows that growth is concentrated in two regions, the
Programme, it incorporates more than nine million households South and East, which already account for about 95 percent of
into the ﬁnancial sector. membership. The 31 percent growth was recorded in the West,
According to the NABARD Annual Report 2007, the western on an extremely small base, while only 11 percent growth was
region of India has experienced 63 percent of growth in its entire registered in the North, among a larger base. With ﬁnancial
region. Table 1 shows that the growth rate in eastern region was support from government for SHG programmes the establishment
33 percent and in central region, the growth rate was 24 percent. of a large number of MFIs following the SHG model has
The ﬁgures also show that the southern region is leading in been registered.
the programme. During the ﬁnancial year 2005-2006, Andhra From the perspective of the legal framework (Fig 1), the
Pradesh had further consolidated its role as the leading state in the proposed new microﬁnance law does not cover nearly 80% of
size of SHG movement by holding 279 households participating in these clients since 73% are served by NBFCs or MFIs on the
SHGs for every 1,000 households. During this period, the number verge of transformation to NBFCs and another 6% by Section
of new loans in Andhra Pradesh, remained about the same but the 25 (not for proﬁt) companies. Such institutions fall outside the
number of repeat loans increased by 31 percent/year. Himachal ambit of the proposed law.
Pradesh, Kerala, Assam, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Maharashtra
formed an intermediate group with 94, 85, 82, 65, 61 and 56
households participating in SHGs for every 1,000 households,
respectively. In Uttaranchal and Jharkhand there were less than
thirty-two households participating in SHGs for every 1,000. In
Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Punjab and Arunachal Pradesh
there were less than ten households participating in SHGs for
every 1,000 of the total households.
MFI performance: Efficiency with growth
The MFI model in India is characterised by a diversity of
institutional and legal forms. The ﬁrst and most well known
MFI, SEWA, was incorporated as an urban cooperative bank in
1974 and demonstrated that poor people were bankable. In the
1980s, a number of registered societies and trusts commenced
group-based savings and credit activities on the basis of grant
funds from donors. MFIs of all legal forms have their own funds
or are built up mainly from; (i) donor grants in the case of societies Source: Poverty Estimates for 2004-05, PIB, Government of India, New Delhi,
and trusts, (ii) equity investments and promoters’ capital in the March, 2007
case of companies, (iii) shareholdings in the case of cooperatives,
as well as (iv) retained earnings in the case of all three categories, Progress under social performance
the main source of funds is debt, borrowed from the banks and MFIs and those who work for MFIs like banks, investors, and
apex ﬁnancial institutions. donors are social enterprise. For any MFI, ﬁnancial sustainability
In the last decade, the MFI model has seen a series of critical is important. An MFI that can cover its costs - has good ﬁnancial
developments in the Indian MFI sector. According to the estimates performance - can grow to serve more clients in more areas.
of 2006 Annual Report by Microﬁnance India, joint effort of Social performance in microﬁnance is deﬁned as “the translation
Care, Ford Foundation and Swiss Agency for Development and of mission into practice in line with accepted social goals”: These
Cooperation (SDC), Large MFIs are more efﬁcient in the disbursal social goals relate to:
of funds with 81 percent of total assets held as loans, as against • Reaching the poor or excluded clients
75 percent in the case of medium and small MFIs. • Improving the quality and appropriateness of financial
June 2009 | www.i4donline.net