Sunday, July 21, 2013

A bit of heart

Our days are happier when we give people a bit of our heart rather than a piece of our mind. I have always ascribed to this philosophy and tried, by example, to have my children too imbibe it. Only time will tell whether and how far I have succeeded.

This year, on my son's sixteenth birthday, I tried in yet another way to give him that message. One of his birthday presents was a Milaap gift card which he could redeem by making a loan on Milaap.

Milaap is an online platform that enables you to lend to India's working poor. Milaap partners with established organizations that have a strong presence at the grass roots to design customized loan programs. It then shares requirements, backgrounds and photos of all borrowers. The online listing of borrower profiles enables the lender to select the cause and the borrower of his choice and give a loan of minimum USD 50 or Rs 1000. Every month, Milaap sends the total loan collected to its various field partners who disburse the loans. Throughout the loan cycle, the field partners regularly monitor the progress of the borrowers and collect repayments from the borrowers. Milaap makes monthly deposits of the repaid loan instalments into the lender's Milaap account. At the end of the loan cycle, the lender can choose to withdraw the repaid loan amount or decide to relend it to another borrower on Milaap. Through re-lending, a small loan goes a long way and gathers impact.

 Dhruv chose to redeem the Gift Card by making a loan to  the Zaite group to help one of the members buy a deep freezer Ice Cream vending machine which will bring more income and profit as her store will be the first to have the machine in her locality.

Here's how Dhruv described the experience of making a loan to someone he doesn't know, living thousands of kilometres away, in a part of the country he has never visited, living a life he is completely unfamiliar with:

Whether its a gift or a loan, I'd like it to be a person who needs the money not just for buying things (even if its a toilet) but for investing it in an activity which brings him income. It could be money someone needs to get skills which are needed in a job. It could be money needed to buy tools or equipment which make him more efficient and productive. There has to be an output ------a production of goods or services.

What is it about the experience of online lending that you liked the most, I asked him. Its anonymous and impersonal, he said. Those who wish to get a loan do not have to feel embarrassed about asking for a small loan ( young men and women would, he said) and those who give loans do not feel awkward about it as he would have if he had had to personally hand over the amount.

Why did you choose the Zaite group, I asked? Its a simple business model I have seen succeeding in my own neighbourhood (he gave me the example of a local grocery store).

Will you lend again,once you begin earning? You bet, was the succinct reply. 

Do you think such micro loans can change the fate of millions of poor Indians? It cannot,he said. They need jobs, they need the government to stop treating them like beggars, they need the country to become a place where people can earn their living and live with  self respect.

Why did you make this loan then, he was asked. Lets not think this is the solution to India's problem of poor millions, he said, but it feels good to help someone, even if its just 1 person in a million. 

1 comment:

  1. a wonderful gesture. i hope i remember this when my son turns sixteen.