Archives For Micro-finance

My time in India

oatsandsugar —  February 22, 2012 — Leave a comment

I spent the month of January this year in India, hopping around trying to learn as much as I can.

I spent a bit of time in Chennai with OfERR, one of Palmera Projects’ partner in Sri Lanka, to visit their head office and view some of their projects.  I jumped over to Bangalore to visit my lovely friend Douglas and tail him to a few lectures in the National Law School in Bangalore (the “NLS”).  Whilst there, I learned from Douglas a little bit about the fascinating world of Indian Constitutional Law, and I had the opportunity to interview a lovely professor about the impacts of the Indian Micro finance Bill, which I will be publishing on this site very soon.  After that, it was off to New Dehli, where I met up with the people from Eko/- phone banking.  I saw some of their projects and interviewed some of their people: I will be publishing a full write-up about their system as soon as I can.

Finally, I head to Hyderabad with some people from my university to participate in the UTS-ISB (University of Technology, Sydney and Indian School of Business) study tour.  We had professors from throughout the uni deliver us hand-picked lectures, we went to whatever classes we thought sounded cool and we had visits at some of the premier businesses in India.  This isn’t at all to mention the awesome people we met – our roommates, our classmates – and the awesome stuff we did outside of class – partying mainly.  We headed to Goa to check out a new social venture called “Culture Aangan” – it was an amazing trip.

I am going to write-up a few articles about some of the most significant stuff I learned on my trip, but until then, here’s a little teaser: my India trip in photos.


Solar lantern

OfERR's solar lanterns for refugee students

Chennai Licquor

A pub in Chennai

Temple sounds

Temple musicians


Jessica and Douglas

My friends Jessica and Douglas

Hijras in Bangalore

Hijras in Bangalore

Sunset at the Hanuman temple

Sunset at the Hanuman temple

New Dehli

Mister Charles

Mister Charles of Eko/-

A village mother

A lady in a village where an eko/- branch recently opened

The owner of the Connought Pl. branch

The owner of the eko/- branch at Connought Pl.


Tea and awesome

Tea drinkers at Charminar

The group!

UTS-ISB crew

Cracking open a coconut

Cracking open a coconut at culture Aangan


A boy in his village


Yunus (a nobel laureate, founder of Grameen Bank and Grameen Foundation, grandfather of modern micro-finance an social-business)’s new book (sequel to “A world without poverty” – where the concept of social-business is first presented) is surprisingly readable.

The first few chapters expound on the basic ideas behind social businesses (donations are to be repaid, without interest; the business should strive to be self-sufficient; the business should look to take care of all of its stake-holders, not merely the shareholders (although they may be the same person); the businesspersons should always do his/her work with a view to fun; etc.), and provide inspiring reading. Whenever I came up with a question, it was promptly answered, just as a good non-fiction book should.

After, every alternate chapter was an anecdote, describing a stage in the development of Danone-Grameen or some other social business (usually large in scale). These anecdotes illustrate the ideas discussed at the start of the book well, making them less abstract and more understandable. However, on the flip-side, they make the theoretical chapters seem boring, and you almost want to skip them to get to the next anecdotal chapter.

This book is a useful, albeit, in my opinion, unfinished and slightly didactic (it allows no room for a part profit driven — part social business) guide to starting a social business – and is easy to read.

I would recommend it, and give it 3.5/5.


  • Intelligent and well rounded theoretical framework
  • Brilliant anecdotes which illustrate the “rules” of social-business, and why they formed
  • Interesting discussion of the future of social-business (although a little incomplete) including the discussion of a social stock-market


  • A little bit didactic (has a very specific framework for social-businesses, and is quite scathing of other models)
  • Not very well written
  • Quite repetitive
  • A little bit melodramatic and generalising in its aphorisms about the nature of poverty

An article I wrote up for THINK micro about phone banking, financial inclusion and micro-finance.

On the Gates Foundation‘s site, there is a very interesting piece about phone banking and Africa, specifically about the “Global Savings Forum”.

Technology can be a major force to advance financial inclusion, which can help improve the lives of the poor in the developing world.

In Africa, and elsewhere in the developing world, it was commonplace for an informal banking network to form, particularly through communal trust.  A person would drop his money off at a service station, the guy at the station would call his friend in another village, and your friend/creditor/family could pick the money up from him.

Children and young mothers by their home in the Muthur camp

In even the poorest village in the developing world there is access to mobile phones. Where even 1 shopkeep in a village has a phone, there is an opportunity for access to financial services.

Regional Telcos and Banks in the developing world worked off this principle, allowing deposits to be placed at many town shops, basically turning them into bank branches.  Further, they allowed transfer of money, checking of balances and even the application for short-term credit to be done via SMS.  This greatly reduces transaction costs and could be an amazing way of striving towards financial inclusion in the developing world.  Merging this service with micro-finance could lead to unprecedented reach.