Opportunity's Senior Vice President of Global Philanthropy, Mark Lutz, traveled to India to meet some of our incredible clients. Over the course of two weeks, he is sharing a few of the stories of the powerful moments he experienced and inspiring people he met. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
Eleven members of her group, one they titled "Satia" (Hindi for "Friends"), gathered to make their monthly loan payments. It was a new group, about 7 months into their first one-year loan, and each one of them had borrowed about $300.
Half of the members hadn't previously run a business, so as many do, they started out in retail. Several opened little eateries; others sold snacks, soap, and dried goods; one sold saris and other women's garments. Younger members commented on using their profits to pay school fees.
Our meeting took place in Khyati's home. She graciously received her foreign guests, uncommon in her community where the streets are unpaved and the electricity sporadic at best. Seated on a mat covering her cow-dung floor, I could only imagine how this scene would alter during the upcoming monsoons.
After the meeting, Khyati walked us to the lot next door where she stored the inventory for her enterprise—a catering business for weddings and other festivities. They lease bamboo posts and the necessary trappings to create a temporary structure, not unlike the construction of many of the dwellings around us.
One of the reasons microfinance is so successful in the developing world is that many of the enterprises are so basic, and the materials are often local and plentiful. Who would have thought that $300 could expand a business using bamboo and tarp? Ingenuity and tiny investments, coupled with support and encouragement from “Friends”, free families who have been trapped on the treadmill of generational poverty and help them take hold of the first rung on a financial ladder. With these new tools in hand, these friends have the opportunity to climb out of extreme poverty for good.