What were the objectives behind the establishment of the bank?
I came to Mhaswad, in Satara district in Maharashtra, where I started the bank. I was working with farmers and women in this area. One woman came to me and said that she wanted to open a savings account and she could save three rupees a day. There were banks but the banks would not allow her to open an account because the banks said that she was not a viable customer to them. But his woman was not asking for loan, nor was she asking for subsidiary or grant from the government. She wanted to save, she wanted to plan her life. Than we thought why not setup a bank that could help women like her to open an account.
What were the challenges faced by the bank and how did you overcome them?
If you want to start a bank in such a remote location so many things are required. So if you have banking license you need to comply with all the RBI regulations, you need to maintain liquidity, you need to maintain files of returns, etc. So these were the major challenges in setting up the bank. But I feel that the major challenge was to deal with paradigm of the poor people. Sometimes, these poor people cannot repay the loan. But the bigger challenge was to redefine the banking, to re-invent banking for these people.
How do you see the overall contribution of the bank in the development of the rural areas?
The very big contribution is that poor people can do banking today, and we do 100% banking with those people. In rural area even the economy has been strengthened because the number of animals in the area has increased, the amount of milk which is produced has increased. Mann Deshi provides other loans, apart from farming loan, so that women can start small businesses, such as selling flowers around temples or other micro enterprises. As a result, their source of income has diversified, so the risks involved in agriculture, owing to weather, volatile markets, all which is faced by the farmers, have been reduced because of the diversification in the income generation in these households. This way it has strengthened the economy.
How do you manage the funding?
When you start a corporative bank the money comes as a shared capital from the women members. But Mann Deshi has a foundation and it runs the business for the rural women. It also runs the community radio for the area, the chambers of commerce for the rural women and for these funding come from different sources. One of our biggest funder routers is HSBC Bank.