04 March, 2007

Microfinance: Giving opportunities to small vendors.

Few weeks back, I watched a TV program about Microfinance and Muhammad Yunus who pioneered Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.

An an young economist, one question that bothered Yunus is "Why so many people in his country are poor?".

He met a woman who made bamboo stools in a village. He found that, she borrowed money from "evil lender" for buying raw material. "Evil Lender" gave her money on a strict evil condition that all finished bamboo stools should be sold to only him at price lower than the market price of stools. So woman could earn very small amount of money at end of month, barely enough to buy food, no savings to buy raw material on her own. So next month she has NO other option than to borrow money from "evil lender". Government and private banks won't lend money to her without any collateral (which she did NOT have). She was stuck in hell.

So the microfinance idea is to provide poor woman enough money, trust in her skills, her ability to create small profitable business, her instincts to efficiently manage the money and take care of her children and family, make her independent.

Overall it was a inspiring TV programme. I need to find some more details about microfinance.
There is one idea in my mind, from my observation of street vendors (selling fruits, flowers, vegetables etc.) in big cities in India. Rightnow problem is they do not have a place/shop where they can store their products and sell to customers.
  • A place where they can scale (meaning increase the size).
  • A place which will protect them and their inventory from rain and sun.
  • A place where customers will come to buy.
Maybe a 200 sq. feet. shop in a mall/vegetable marker. How do they get money to buy the shop? Can micro-finance ideas help? Are banks ready to lend them small load? or what if banks lend money to somebody who buys the shop(s) and rents them to poor vendors.
Does anybody knows about such banks?