For a long time, Chandra Shekhar Ghosh struggled to care for his family of three (mother, wife and son) on a paltry salary of Rs 5,000. This was in the late 1990s. “Why not try to do something on my own?” he thought. At the time, the Tripura-born guy worked as a programme head with the Village Welfare Society, a Kolkata-based non-government organisation (NGO).
Ghosh, 53, was born in Agartala in Tripura and had a tough life as a child. His father supported the family from the earnings from his sweet shop. But he was determined to give a good education to his son. Thanks to the support from his father and his own tenacity, Ghosh completed his masters degree in statistics from Dhaka University.
“My daughter has been asking for fish for three days now. And today I will again make another false promise to her”
Looking bad at harsh times, he says that one day his mother was boiling a pot of rice outside their hut while her daughter was busy making a meal of the dust and dirt around her. Ghosh stepped in and delivered a sermon on the importance of healthy habits. “I’ll never forget the mother’s reply,” he says. She told me, “My daughter has been asking for fish for three days now. And today I will again make another false promise to her.”
What moved Ghosh more than the deprivation was her mother’s resignation to the situation. The second instance also took place in West Bengal when a conversation with a vegetable vendor in one of Kolkata’s busy markets brought home the tyranny of money-lending.
The vendor was paying a moneylender an annual interest of about 700 percent on a daily loan of Rs 500. Every morning, he would borrow some money from the lender and return the principal amount with interest in the evening.
One day Ghosh decided to start a microfinance organisation with the goal of lending money to women entrepreneurs who were marginalised by society but were willing to try their hand at a small-scale business. Bandhan was born in 2001.
Five years later, he registered his organisation as a non-deposit taking, non-banking financial company (NBFC) with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), and Bandhan became Bandhan Financial Services Pvt Ltd. It now provides loans to people in rural and semi-urban India irrespective of gender, though women empowerment remains its primary goal.
A model with an all-female membership, zero portfolio risk, and an unbelievable 100% recovery rate
Bandhan’s micro finance initiative, which today boasts of over 2,000 branches, has built a model with an all-female membership, zero portfolio risk, and an unbelievable 100% recovery rate, said Ashoka, a leading agency focused on social change. It said Ghosh started out testing his empowerment idea through a pilot programme for 25 destitute women in a semi-urban area of Kolkata and helped increase their average income from Rs 300 a month to Rs 2,000.
Bandhan’s inspiration is to build a poverty-free world through empowerment, while its vision is to be a world class international microfinance institution by 2020, serving 10 million clients.
In June 2015, it received final nod from the Reserve Bank of India to operate as a bank. This mean that it will now serve more unbanked people and help strengthen the economy.
Kudos to the man who thought of lending to people who are looked as defaulters and non-profitable by the cream of banking institutions.
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