Emerging Trends in the Microfinance Industry
Professor C.K. Prahalad said, ‘the poor deserve world-class products and services”. Speaking in favour of microfinance and microloans aimed at low income customers; he said it would alleviate some of the problems faced by the poorer sections of society, majority of who survive on less than 2 dollars a day. Microfinance is the provision of financial services to low-income clients, including consumers and the self-employed, who traditionally lack access to banking and related services.
Mohammad Yunus, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for creating the Grameen Microcredit Bank in Bangladesh, first started the US $27 loan in a village of Bangladesh, the loan that launched the microfinance movement. As Dr. Yunus has observed, Grameen Bank is transmitting an entrepreneurial culture to millions of Bangladeshi women.
At the beginning microfinance happened through donor and philanthropic funding. However as the activities scaled up, it was imperative to move to a commercial format. Bankers, Venture capitalists, technology solution providers, governments and public at large have realized the increased potential of microfinance.
A wide range of technologies are available to help microfinance providers improve efficiency, track operations more accurately, increase transparency, and reach new customers, thus facilitating financial inclusion. Technology has led to increased deposits, by placing easy-to-use ATMs in well-trafficked areas. Technology has led to more rural customers. Standard Bank’s (South Africa) low minimum-balance, easy-to-use “ePlan” account can be opened at manned ATMs in rural areas where it would be too expensive to open branches.
Banco Compartamos (Mexico’s Microfinance Institution) put Mexico’s microfinance industry on the map, since its initial public offering (IPO) in 2007. About two thirds of India’s more than 1 billion people live in rural areas, and almost 170 million of them are poor. Rural and micro-banking is now an industry in India with each bank having a dedicated Rural, Agricultural, and Micro-banking (RMAG) division. Banks in India have begun to enter the microfinance lending market, and many are partnering with regional microfinance institutions. Forbes recently published the Forbes 50 list of Top MFIs acknowledging the industry and its impact.
Mergers and Acquisitions in the Microfinance Industry: In the news: CGAP, DFID join hands to boost mobile banking for the unbanked: GAP, Deutsche Bank, Grameen-Jameel, and IDB join ‘Islamic Microfinance Challenge 2010’.Samasta a Non-Banking Finance Company, which forayed into microfinance in 2008, says it is open to Geographical Mergers. It aims to become a one-stop financial shop by offering ‘solutions not products’.
Microfinance has now been seen by the United Nations as the means of achieving the Millennium Developmental Goal -2015 of alleviating extreme poverty and hunger. The producers of software, hardware and associated infrastructure can acknowledge this contribution and prepare themselves thereby contributing to a larger social cause!