Showing posts with label Grameen Bank. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grameen Bank. Show all posts

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Seeking Head Of State Like Powers

Puyi, the last emperor of China, abdicated fro...Image via WikipediaIn seeking to create a for profit, high tech microfinance startup, in seeking to lead it as Chairperson/CEO, I seek to create head of state like powers for me that I hope to put singularly to the cause of microfinance. I am confident the technology that is the Internet is already ripe for such possibilities.

The Google/Facebook Of Microfinance
Microfinance Alone Can't Cure Poverty
Microfinance: No Substitute For Good Governance

I have said time and again, good governance is the number one factor in tackling poverty. It is not microfinance. And riding a microfinance outfit would give me a way to take close looks at governance structures around the world.

For instances, I am gripped by the street revolutions across the Arab world. Few things are as exciting to me as a democracy movement. There is no better display of people power.

The Long March Of Democracy
The Internet And The Emperors
Syria Is Being Left To The Dogs
Indiscriminate Firing By Syrian Security Forces

Friday, April 01, 2011

Grameen Miracles

MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 01:  Grameen Bank Mana...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
New York Times: Grameen Bank and the Public Good: it’s important to protect successful social institutions from political maneuvers that could be damaging to them, and that an abrupt and forced removal of Yunus could damage confidence in the bank, which has 8.4 million mostly women borrowers and holds $1.5 billion in villagers’ savings. ...... Yunus was being targeted for political reasons. ....... others said that there were people within the government, as well as across Bangladeshi society, who opposed the work of the Grameen Bank on principled, if ideological, grounds. Simply put, many people don’t think that microfinance helps the poor and they believe that socially-minded businesses, like the Grameen Bank, undermine the work of government. ....... The question: ‘Does microfinance work?’ has been posed increasingly in recent years — sometimes in accusatory tones because microfinance, and its leading practitioner, Grameen, have received so much praise. ....... microfinance — including both loans and savings services — is, in fact, good for microbusinesses ....... microfinance is not, itself, one simple thing. It may involve loans, or savings, or a combination of the two, plus training, insurance or other services ...... the way poor people manage their households is far more complex than anyone had previously understood. ........ If microfinance doesn’t accomplish anything positive, then why are 128 million poor families busy taking loans? ....... what it really means for most people to be poor: to live with perpetual uncertainty. ....... the problem of living on $1 or $2 a day is that you don’t actually earn $1 or $2 every day ...... Some days you receive $5 and then nothing for two weeks. Life is unreliable ...... what we saw microfinance was doing for people was offering them a reliable source of money. With microfinance, you get a sum of money that’s promised on the day it’s promised in the amount that’s promised. It’s often the only reliable service that poor people have — and that’s incredibly powerful. ........ contrary to the depiction of poor people as passive victims of microlenders — as the field is often portrayed by its critics — Morduch and his colleagues found that the families they followed were “strategic” in their use of credit, often mingling a variety of formal and informal sources. “They weren’t always making the best choices — some did well, some didn’t — but they were very actively managing their affairs,” he said. “Our view is that there’s a lot more going on with microfinance — that it’s helping people keep an income flow, deal with health problems, keep their kids in school, get food on the table every day, and perhaps invest in businesses.” .......... self-employed women in Kenya were able to invest more in their businesses and increase household spending when they had access to savings accounts ...... “extending basic banking services could have large effects at relatively small cost.” ....... a middle path: the social business — the business that seeks not to maximize profits but to maximize some form of social impact. ...... Social businesses seek to harness market forces to provide essential goods and services to people who are typically underserved. ...... social businesses provide things like loans to small farmers, rural electricity and access to potable water. They also supply health services like ambulance care or cataract surgery. In addition to microfinance, Grameen has helped establish an array of for- and not-for-profit companies such as Grameen Danone, a joint venture with Danone (known to us as Dannon), which markets an affordable fortified yogurt product to address micronutrient deficiencies among the poor and Grameen Shakti, a renewable energy company. ....... Social businesses have evolved to address both the operational weaknesses of many government agencies and the lack of affordable products and services available to the poor through the market. By and large, they are a new invention .......... , it appears that social businesses can bring things like renewable energy, mobile technologies and affordable housing to poor people faster and more efficiently than governments ...... However, ongoing access to safe water for all is not something that can be guaranteed without the leadership of governments.

Grameen Under Attack At Home

Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen BankImage via Wikipedia
New York Times: Opinionator: Microfinance Under Fire: Both the bank and Yunus, have come under attack by the government of Bangladesh and its prime minister, Sheikh Hasina Wazed. It has taken 35 years of painstaking effort to build Grameen into a world-class institution that serves millions of poor people. That progress could be lost if the country’s leaders fail to appreciate what makes the Grameen Bank work........ The Grameen Bank is not just the largest microlender in the world, with 8.4 million borrowers (most of them women villagers) who received more than $1 billion in loans last year, it is the flagship enterprise in an industry that, in 2009, served 128 million of the world’s poorest families. ...... Yunus, the founder of the bank, is an entrepreneurial figure cut from the same cloth as Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple. He has devoted himself since the 1970s to demonstrating, institutionalizing and spreading microfinance. ...... Legally, the government owns 25 percent of Grameen and has the right to appoint a quarter of its board members, including its chairperson. In practical terms, however, the government has little justification to intercede in the bank’s operations. Today, of the Grameen Bank’s paid-up share capital, only 3.5 percent comes from the Bangladeshi government. It is the bank’s borrowers who are its majority owners. They control 75 percent of the board seats and they have supplied 96.5 percent of the paid up share capital. And it’s the savings of villagers — about $1.5 billion — that now finances the bank’s activities and growth. ......... Nevertheless, the government is proceeding to remove Yunus against the objections of its majority owners and will probably succeed. ...... Yunus is being punished for criticizing the government and making a bid to start a political party in 2007. ......... The Grameen Bank is a strong, well-managed institution with 25,000 employees. It could probably withstand his departure. Indeed, given Yunus’s age, it’s critical to pave the way for a successor. But if he is replaced in a manner that diminishes confidence, the bank could face problems. ........ the Grameen Bank depends on unusually high levels of motivation among its staff and high levels of trust among its borrowers. A forced removal of Yunus that is seen as illegitimate, politically-motivated, or vindictive could alienate thousands of employees and trigger a run on savings or loan defaults. ......... The state-owned banks have regularly extended loans to elite borrowers (who default at high rates) as a form of patronage. Unlike Grameen, which is financially self-sufficient, the state banks are perpetually in need of cash infusions from the government. ........ The Prime Minister has made it clear that she believes the interest rates are too high. ...... if the government installed a bureaucratic manager who failed to appreciate the bank’s 
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh HasinaImage via Wikipediaentrepreneurial culture, it could suck the life out of the bank. ....... Before Grameen Bank workers get hired, for example, they spend close to a year demonstrating their interest in serving the poor. They have to do things like write detailed case studies about the lives of village women to show that they genuinely care about, and understand, their clients. Managing this workforce is nothing like managing a run-of-the-mill bank. ........ Over the past few months, officials have sought to damage Yunus’s reputation, claiming without evidence that he has enriched himself at the expense of the poor, intentionally harmed borrowers, and engaged in fraud. The prime minister has called microlenders loan sharks “sucking the blood of the poor.” Her son circulated a letter which contained a litany of unfounded accusations against Yunus — the most outrageous being that the government created the Grameen Bank, not Yunus. ......... It’s not as if Bangladesh is lacking real problems that require government attention. There can be no sense in destabilizing the leading institution in an industry that provides financing to more than half of the households in the country. ........ On March 15, the Bangladeshi Supreme Court postponed ruling on Yunus’s case for two weeks........ Given that Yunus understands Grameen’s culture better than anyone, he should have a key say in any leadership change. ........ Wise governments should view microfinance programs not as adversaries, but as partners in furthering public goals — organizations that need to be regulated, but not controlled. ...... Foreign governments and multi-lateral institutions have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the Grameen Bank and other large microfinance organizations in Bangladesh, and elsewhere, with the goal of alleviating poverty. They also need to remember that it’s not enough to finance development organizations. They need to protect them, too.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Jagdish Bhagwati: Misplaced Criticism Of Yunus

Jagdish Bhagwati - World Economic Forum Annual...Image by World Economic Forum via FlickrThere is no doubt that Yunus has done pioneering work in the field of microfinance. It is not that others have not, but I do think he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded. Not only did he do pioneering work, he scaled it. The Grameen Bank is huge in size.

But if Jagdish Bhagwati gives Yunus less credit than I would like to, I don't have issues with that. That is a matter of difference in opinion.

What I do have issues with is where Bhagwati pours down a dozen paragraphs siding with Sheikh Hasina in her crusade against Yunus, and then concludes in the final paragraph by saying good governance plays a more central role in poverty alleviation than does microfinance, something I agree with. I'd put good governance, education, health, infrastructure, job creation, and microcredit, in that order.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Walking/Running: Putting One Foot After The Other

Idea leuconoe 2Image via WikipediaDoing a tech startup is a lot like walking and running. You put one foot after another. And you can't do that unless you have a very good idea of where you are at a given point in time and where it is you want to go. Both those angles are important.

If you are just starting out, you can't act like you are in a position to hire 10 people. I have gone to events and met amazing people and I have told them I'd love to hire them. True, I'd love to, but right now I can't afford those 10 amazing people.

So the right thing to do would be to not look for amazing people to hire, right? Wrong. I could hire those 10 amazing people in my round two, which might happen in as much as six months, eight months, a year, or as little as four months after the first round of money is raised.

The right people will understand the language. I have talked to two major social media talents about my round two possibilities. And both of them took me seriously. The talk is informal, private, off the record, there is no concrete offer. But it's real.

Microfinance Alone Can't Cure Poverty

Father and Son - The Cycle of Poverty ContinuesImage by uncultured via FlickrMicrofinance is no magic bullet. Microfinance alone can't cure poverty.

Good governance, I think, is the first precondition. Yunus saw that. That is why he tried to launch a political party in Bangladesh a few years back. But looks like the politicians in Bangladesh have managed to unlaunch him instead.

Focus, Focus, Focus

Microfinance Coop Society Member IIImage by Austin Yoder via FlickrAt this blog I want to switch to talking primarily about microfinance and the technologies and business practices primarily related to microfinance. The idea is to keep a steep learning curve. The idea is to communicate. The idea is to enter into conversations.

I have done a lot of reading and commenting on broad developments in tech, and I want to keep doing that, but so far that has been the primary thing by a wide margin. I want to narrow that margin. I want to start talking primarily about microfinance.

The three broad conceptual jumps I have made - moving from a non profit model to a for profit model, moving from a low tech model to a very high tech model, and doing the last mile under the same brand name everywhere through the franchise concept - have to be visited again and again.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Not Rich Yet

Graph of internet users per 100 inhabitants be...Image via WikipediaI am not rich yet, and it really, really bothers me.

For me it is about the power. The power to run and grow a corporate organization. The power to do good. The power to go after the stated mission of curing poverty.

Unless you yourself can create serious wealth, how can you claim you are in the curing poverty business?

Democracy + Education + The Market = Wonderful Things.

Microcredit is only a small part of microfinance. Microfinance is only a small part of the many tools needed for the War On Poverty.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Microfinance: No Substitute For Good Governance

Community-based savings bank in CambodiaImage via WikipediaDemocracy is basic. I am a firm believer in democracy. The year a country becomes a modern democracy is year one in that country's life. Lack of democracy, bad governance, massive corruption, and civil war are situations that are not within the domain of the microfinance industry. Basic good governance is critical for the microfinance industry to have a playing field where it can start performing, it can start to lift people out of poverty in large numbers.

There is plenty of diversity within the microfinance industry. There are many right ways. And microfinance is not the only tool with which to cure poverty. China has lifted more people out of poverty the past few decades than any other country, and it does not even allow MFIs to come in.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Microfinance, Not Just Microcredit

Microfinance Information ExchangeImage via WikipediaOne of the major lessons the microfinance industry has learned over the decades is that the poor need more than microcredit. They need a broad swath of financial services.

As soon as they start a business, they want to be able to open up a savings account with you. They want to be able to make easy payments. They want to be able to receive money from relatives who might have gone to some distant city or country.

And you have to offer the whole package deal. Although I do think microcredit continues to be the crown jewel of microfinance. But people don't just wear jewelry. They also like to wear clothes, also undergarments perhaps.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Microfinance: The Basics

Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen BankImage via WikipediaThe basic premise behind microfinance is simple: access to credit is basic, it is a human right. You give people three tools - education, health, credit - and they fly. Traditional credit has depended on your ability to put down some collateral. And that has cut off a large swath of humanity. There are over a billion people who live on less than a dollar a day. There are over two billion people who live on less than two dollars a day.

Yunus in Bangladesh has proven the default rate among these small borrowers tends to be really, really low. 98% of those who borrow pay back. That is a much better rate than rich people and corporations in New York City. Their default rate is higher.

So what gives? Why were mad men bankers pouring trillions into real estate and shady finance tools a few years back instead of pumping that money into microfinance? Stupidity. Racism.

You can't build enough schools and colleges and print enough textbooks on time. But you can hope to take everyone online. Similarly microfinance has to be taken to all those people. Microfinance is the ultimate fishing net.

Monday, February 14, 2011

When Zuck's Facebook Account Got Hacked

BBC: January 26: Facebook blames bug for Zuckerberg 'hacking': Facebook has said "a bug" was to blame for an odd posting purporting to come from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. ..... Overnight, the cryptic message was posted to the Facebook fan page in the name of the 26-year old billionaire founder. .... It called for the site to become a "social business" with investment from its users. .... The message, left in the name of Mr Zuckerberg, read: "Let the hacking begin: If Facebook needs money, instead of going
Muhammad Yunus, Winner of 2006 Nobel Peace PrizeImage via Wikipediato the banks, why doesn't Facebook let its users invest in Facebook in a social way? ..... "Why not transform Facebook into a 'social business' the way Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus described it?" ..... Muhammad Yunus is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and the founder of the Grameen Bank, which offers small loans to people who have no collateral to get started in business...... The message also linked to a recently edited Wikipedia article about social business and asked readers: "what do you think?"

Leave Yunus Alone

Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel prize for li...Image via WikipediaThe Stink From The New York Times
Nazrul Islam Chunnu: Motherfucker
Telegraph: Bangladeshi leaders decide Nobel financier Mohammad Yunus must go: Professor Yunus is Bangladesh's most respected international figure ..... Prof Yunus was now too old and that the government wants to redefine the bank’s role and bring it under closer regulation. ..... the government of Sheikh Hasina, which, according to Western diplomats, regards his international profile as a political threat. ..... The government’s stance also sets it on a collision course with Western governments, aid and finance organisations ..... Hillary Clinton has voiced her fears that Grameen Bank’s independence is under threat ..... former Ireland president Mary Robinson and former World Bank president James Wolfensohn, launched Friends of Grameen to save the bank from a government takeover. ..... Yunus said the government wanted to take control of the bank from its 8m borrowers and savers ..... The bank’s borrowers and savers own 75pc of the company, while the government has a 25pc stake. According to the bank, it lends $1bn every year while lifting 5pc of its borrowers out of poverty. ...... Sheikh Hasina, who said the bank was “sucking money” from the poor and using them as “pawns to get more aid”. ..... Yunus said government control would lead to the bank being used to help “win elections” and fuel corruption and that he would not step down until the government promised to maintain the bank’s independence and mission to help the poor
This is like Putin going after that businessman dude in Russia. This is a severe abuse of state power. While they are at it, the Bengalis should go ahead and disrespect Rabindranath Tagore as well. This is insane.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Yunus On Loan Sharks

Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad YunusImage by amioascension via Flickr
Muhammad Yunus: The New York Times: Sacrificing Microcredit for Megaprofits: one of my goals was to eliminate the presence of loan sharks who grow rich by preying on the poor. In 1983, I founded Grameen Bank to provide small loans that people, especially poor women, could use to bring themselves out of poverty. At that time, I never imagined that one day microcredit would give rise to its own breed of loan sharks...... India’s crisis points to a clear need to get microcredit back on track. ..... Troubles with microcredit began around 2005, when many lenders started looking for ways to make a profit on the loans by shifting from their status as nonprofit organizations to commercial enterprises. In 2007, Compartamos, a Mexican bank, became Latin America’s first microcredit bank to go public. And this past August, SKS Microfinance, the largest bank of its kind in India, raised $358 million in an initial public offering. ...... Commercialization has been a terrible wrong turn for microfinance, and it indicates a worrying “mission drift” in the motivation of those lending to the poor. Poverty should be eradicated, not seen as a money-making opportunity. ..... these commercial organizations raise larger sums in volatile international financial markets, and then transmit financial risks to the poor. ..... commercial microcredit institutions are subject to demands for ever-increasing profits, which can only come in the form of higher interest rates charged to the poor, defeating the very purpose of the loans. ...... Grameen Bank .... has 2,500 branches in Bangladesh. It lends out more than $100 million a month, from loans of less than $10 for beggars in our “Struggling Members” program, to micro-enterprise loans of about $1,000. Most branches are financially self-reliant, dependent only on deposits from ordinary Bangladeshis. When borrowers join the bank, they open a savings account. All borrowers have savings accounts at the bank, many with balances larger than their loans. And every year, the bank’s profits are returned to the borrowers — 97 percent of them poor women — in the form of dividends. ..... we charge 20 percent to the borrowers. .... every country where microloans are made needs a microcredit regulatory authority
I share Yunus' aversion to "loan sharks." I grew up in the Third World. I know what loan sharks are. I saw too many of them in action while growing up. It is not a pretty sight.


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Monday, November 01, 2010

The Microfinance Fishing Net

"Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.”
Microfinance is magic. It is the ultimate fishing net. Poverty is artificial. Microfinance proves that.