Saturday, May 09, 2009

Samasta Microfinance

I have joined the Board of Directors for a small start up microfinance company operating in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, called Samasta Microfinance.

It is amazing to know how many people are desperately looking forward to getting money to kickstart their lives. It is also unfortunate to know that larger banks are not yet willing to lend money to microfinance institutions. As a result, the credit demand in India remains unfulfilled.

With respect to Samasta, I would like to suggest to the company interesting ways in which the borrowers can improve their lives, particularly through intervention in education, healthcare, better solutions for safe drinking water, renewable electricity solutions and so on.

I have looked at some simple, low cost water purifiers which, if deployed, can cut down the healthcare costs. The quality of water is notoriously bad in urban and suburban Chennai, and is one of the major causes of diseases. Several low income households can benefit substantially from solar lighting solutions. Power cuts have increased in the last 5 years in Tamil Nadu, not just in rural TN but also in the urban areas. The most affected are school children, near their exam times.

More technology providers will have to look at the lower end of the population to come up with affordable solutions.

I am greatly interested in education and reading books in general, being a book publisher myself. We gave away several free books to microcredit borrowers of Samasta (all women) and talked to them about the need to get their children to read books (as opposed to watching TV mindlessly). All the women accepted the idea and agreed to persuade their children to get into reading books.

Let us see what difference we can make in the coming days.