I had earlier written about my new job that gives me a fantastic opportunity to work in and with rural milleu. I have been meaning to write more about it on my blog but I just do not know where to start and what to write about. Now that I am back from my 5th trip in the last 3 months, I have a large enough collection of photographs. So, what I will do is put the pictures here and then may be write stuff related to it, which will serve as a photo-essay
For the last 3 months, I have been working with the micro-credit unit of a NGO in Bangalore. We operate mainly in Raichur and Koppal in North Karnataka, two of the most backward districts in Karnataka and indeed, South India.
Why micro-credit? Banks, like most businesses, have stayed away from rural markets for two major reasons:
1. Income levels in rural areas are not high enough so as to induce consumption and hence, credit. If there is no credit, there are no assets (loans) created for the banks and hence, no profits as well.
2. Banks, again like most businesses, is an economies-of-scale business. Unless there are X number of customers, it is not viable for a bank to set-up a branch to source, approve and deliver loans.
To circumvent these problems, alternative models of credit delivery were devised. Is credit required in rural areas, first of all? Very much so. Unlike urban areas, where after a certain point of time, credit feeds consumption more than need, in rural areas, credit is desperately needed for their daily sustenance. The loans are required for buying livestock, seeds, fertilizers or even for emergencies such as marriages and health. Different models emerged in different places and collectively, they came to be called micro-credit.
NGOs and social organizations are well-placed to deliver credit since they already have an established presence and have a working set-up. So, some of the first micro-credit ventures started as off-shoots of these organizations, driven by social motives.
Though it has its origins, from more than 4 decades ago, in the developing economies of Latin and South American countries, it has gained widespread acceptance and fame in recent years. One, because of the Nobel to Mohammad Yunus and secondly, micro-credit has proved to be successful on the financial bottom-line as well with micro-finance institutions (MFIs) listing themselves on public stock exchanges.
Now, that I have distributed 4 paragraphs of unasked-for gyaan, I’ll start off with my photo-essay:
Exhibit A: Our campus in Deodurg taluk – It is completely made of bamboo and we have water-cooler discussions like in any other office near this water pot! My room is just behind this water-cooler.
Exhibit B: The Mess in Deodurg. One of the reasons I look forward to my Raichur trips are the deliciously spicy and pungent dishes that are cooked here. The fact that they cook it on firewood lends the dishes their own earthy flavour.
Exhibit C: Afore-mentioned abode of mine. Semi-transparent but still cosy and cool in the hot summers. The semi-transparency also attracts bed-time companions, namely harmless frogs. It feels like I stay in a resort when I am in this room – comfortable bed, mosquito nets and abundant peace.
Exhibit D: A training session with our Credit Officers and Branch Cashiers. Credit Officers to the left and Branch Cashiers to the right. These are some of the most hard-working people I have met in my life.
Exhibit E: Training Room 2. The ladies in the picture are some of our most earnest customers. They are shy and coy, but once you get them to open up they have a lot of smart suggestions to offer. I get the best sense of satisfaction when I converse with these women. Our credit delivery is based on the SHG model and we lend only to women of the household.
Exhibit F: A typical village. We were here to conduct a survey. They might be poor and impoverished, but they are the nicest of people, always making it a point to welcome you inside their house and offer you food.
Exhibit G: My room, two months after Exhibit C. It’s more well-equipped (thanks to my room-mate Max) and wired to the internet now.
Exhibit H: Fields of Gold. Sunflower is a major crop in the arid lands of Raichur. One such blooming field close to Deodurg.
More as and when it happens!