Speaking at Sa-Dhan National Conference, CS Ghosh – MD & CEO, Bandhan Bank said, “It has been a long journey for the microfinance industry. It is heartening to see where it is today, despite the many obstacles it faced.” He said that Bandhan Bank has lent Rs. 325 crores to 8 MFIs across 5 states and added, “There are certain rules we as a Bank have to adhere to. We cannot have an excess of unsecured loans. While there is passion, there are also limitations. But we hope to increase the MFI loan portfolio to Rs. 1,000 crore this year.”
Moderating a session with parliamentarians and microfinance institution clients, Vijay Mahajan, Founder & CEO – Basix, acerbically noted that, “The Andhra Pradesh legislation almost killed the industry, it is criminal. What the legislation has done is that it has not only crippled those who were supporting poverty alleviation in the state but also created 65 lakh loan defaulters in the state.”
U. S. Paliwal, Executive Director – RBI, said that there was a need to move forward as the industry has huge potential and added, “Financial exclusion leads to economic and social exclusions.” Staying on with AP legislation, Shri. Ghagra of NIESBUD said, “It was not the way to address an issue. There has been a realization at the government level and we need to allow MFIs to work at the grassroots level in a commercial manner.”
The need of the hour is to bring transparency to the sector. With funds in abundance, both debt and equity raising options are available to help the industry, Rana Usman, AVP – National Stock Exchange (NSE) opined, “Mid-level MFIs need to use the Emerge platform of NSE. This will provide them much-needed visibility. It will also bring about more compliance and transparency.”
Delivering the valedictory address, Harsh Bhanwalla, MD – NABARD, said, “It is important for us to address financial exclusion. This has to be done by linking sustainability programs to livelihood. NABARD is working across the board to use natural resources judiciously. It is imperative that financial inclusion takes place with PPP for poverty alleviation and we at NABARD are continuously working towards creating rural infrastructure. Infrastructure development has a direct correlation with financial inclusion.”
The micro-finance industry is at the cusp of the digital revolution. While DBT, cashless transactions, and Aadhar linked accounts are spreading the digital message. Government support on partnering with MFI’s and the creation of mentoring agencies for skill development will usher in a new era for the empowerment of the underprivileged in the country.