One of the more unique ways of fostering entrepreneurship that has really caught on in the last few years is microfinance. Initially started in 1976 by Muhammad Yunus in India, microfinance is where a financial institution gives a small loan (usually in the $5-50 range) to an impoverished family that otherwise wouldn’t have access to credit.
globalEDGE Blog - By Tag: microfinance
In the spirit of Global Entrepreneurship Week, today we will look at one of the most innovative concepts of entrepreneurship in recent years: the emergence of microfinance. Microfinance empowers poor individuals, mostly from developing countries, by lending them the capital needed to start their own small business. Access to capital for most individuals would not be available without the institutions that support microfinance. It is seen by many experts as a long-term solution to alleviating poverty, by promoting economic development and fostering international entrepreneurship.
Last week we talked about microfinance, and specifically ways to help alleviate poverty in the poorest of areas. A topic that’s closely related to microfinance, but in some ways a better option is micro-franchising. It’s basically business ownership training. It is not only for developing counties however, it can be used for the poor in cities of developed countries as well.
Microfinance has seen such an increased popularity in the last decade, which has led to more than 91 million customers, most of them women, with loans totaling more than $70 billion by the end of 2009. India and Bangladesh together account for half of all borrowers! However, the system is not as perfect as you may think. In fact, it may be quite the opposite. In India some lending firms are growing at 60 percent to 100 percent a year. Investors in India’s largest microcredit firm, SKS Microfinance, sold shares last year for as much as 95 times what they paid for them a few years earlier!
If you’ve been reading our blog series then you know that microfinance is a term that describes the practice of giving small loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries that would not otherwise be able to get a loan. This seems great, but some say that these loans are unfair because of their high interest rates they charge. There are companies that specialize in this and make a lot of money because of the extreme interest rates, however Kiva is different.
To most people in the developed world, banks have become an integral part of our lives. For the most part they have operated silently in background just as we would wish. We take out a mortgage (or two), pay our credit cards and deposit any extra money into a savings account. We don’t really think about it – they have always been there and we assume they will always be there to serve us. This lifestyle is in direct contrast with low-income citizens from small towns in developing countries.
Remember several years ago when microfinance was all the rage? People believed that by loaning small amounts of money to the poor in hard-to-reach rural areas they could potentially stimulate the economic development of those areas. globalEDGE even wrote a few blog posts about it here and there. It seems like microfinance would be a win-win for a financier who wants to give back to the world: they can help out the poor while making profits for themselves. However, looking at it retrospectively, is that how microfinance has worked out so far? It almost seems too good to be true…
In India today, there is a plentiful supply of up-and-coming entrepreneurs. With the advent of microfinance, less privileged communities throughout the world are given opportunities to start businesses in conditions that would otherwise be impossible. So, what is microfinance? Microfinance is the practice of making credit available to individuals in the form of small loans, who would otherwise not have the required income or collateral. The loans generally require in-depth involvement by both the lender and other community members.
India's younger population is growing quickly, and with that comes a greater demand for energy. Despite an ambitious rural energy program, 400 million people still live without access to elecricity. Approximately one-third of the world's urban residents live in slums. In the city of Mumbai, about half of it's residents (roughly 8 million people) live in these slums. Access to electricity can raise the quality of life dramatically, where now it is hard to do simple tasks such as reading and cooking. Many families must choose between putting food on the table or keeping the electricity running. The desperation resulting from this situation has led to a major problem of people stealing the energy.
Microfinance institutions such as Grameen Bank have been tremendously successful in granting impoverished entrepreneurs access to small amounts of capital. The ability of these loans to improve the lives of their recipients made them a humanitarian success, while the incredible payback rates have made them a financial success.