Integrating MIS with Microfinance

Some of the challenges faced by Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) in India have revolved around the issues of a lack of trained labor for local level administration, resource mobilization and the cost of services. One way to tackle these problems is through the use of Management Information Systems (MIS) and this is being demonstrated by Equitas, an Indian MFI.

TC-I had previously featured an interview with the founder of Equitas and they were recently featured as a leader in implementing information systems in microfinance, by Greg Chen of CGAP. Some examples of technology being used by Equitas are,

E-Docs. Membership and loan applications are completed manually by branches but are couriered to a central processing center. The documents are then scanned and from there on out, remain paperless. Forms use a series of check boxes which can be read by scanners and coded automatically.  Remaining manual entries (e.g. names) are entered by a dedicated back office processing unit.

Real Time Meeting Monitoring. Within 15 minutes of the end of a group meeting, loan officers send a text message (SMS) by cell phone with three pieces of information: meeting attendance, loan collections, and when the meeting ended.  This information is picked up by Equitas’s system which then compares it with what is expected, and creates a branch-by-branch report.

Equitas also uses SMS to gather real time information on cash management and Optical Readers for back-office operations.  The Equitas model shows the need for MFIs to focus not just on innovation in the lending model, but also on driving efficiency through various stages of the loan process. MIS has played an important role in the growth of traditional financial institutions over the past few decades and there is no reason it should not do the same for MFIs.

The complete article by Greg Chen can be found here.

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[TC-I Call to Action]: Ennovent looking to fill Investment Manager position

Here is an opportunity for an experienced finance professional.

Job Profile

Title

Investment Manager

Job Objective

To develop and manage the investment portfolio of ennovent in India and Asia

Start Date

As soon as possible

Location

India – frequent travel in India and Asia

Reporting Relationship

Position reports to Managing Director

More information can be found here and general information on Ennovent can be found here.

Sa-Dhan to Host Microfinance Conference in New Delhi

Sa-Dhan, an association of community development finance institutions in India will host a National Microfinance Conference in New Delhi on March 31, 2009. The conference is centered on the theme, ‘Microfinance Ecosystem: Equilibrium Between Growth & Effectiveness’.

One of the goals for this event is for Sa-Dhan member organization to come together with academicians, practioners and policy makers to strategize on ways to overcome issues plaguing microfinance in India, such as “commercialization of microfinance institutions (MFIs), governance, risk management, provision of holistic microfinance services (like savings, microinsurance, livelihood, etc), resource mobilization and credit crunch and cost of services”.

The conference is set to bring the policy makers, mainstream financial institutions, donors, financiers, practitioners, academicians, researchers, parliamentarians and international participants in one platform. Amongst others, the conference would specially focus on Effective Microfinance, Linkages, Opportunities, Gap in Governance, Ethics/Values, Code of Conduct etc.

Some of the speakers at the conference include Prof. Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank and Ms. Ela Bhatt of SEWA Bank. More information on the conference can be found here, and the registration form is available here.

[TC-I Call to Action]: Total Immersion Programme in Finance and Development Summer Internships

The Centre for Development Finance (CDF) announces some very exciting internship opportunities for this summer.  If you’re looking for something more long term, word has it that CDF will likely be releasing postings for BoP related full time positions in the coming weeks… check back for more information!

Total Immersion Programme in Finance and Development (TIP/FD) – Summer 2009

CDF invites internship applications for the Summer 2009 IFMR “Total Immersion Program in Finance and Development (TIP/FD).”

Description of the program follows and application requirements follow below and in this CDF TIP document, and to apply please use the following link.

The TIP F/D provides undergraduate and graduate students interested in microfinance, development finance, and economic development an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in working on issues relating to access to financial services for urban and rural poor in a developing country. Interns will participate in a structured, two-week course directed by leading researchers, IFMR Centre Research Associates, and practitioners from the Indian government, microfinance institutions (MFIs), and NGOs. The course will be followed by eight weeks of work on a CDF projects which will consist of either field-based research, policy/sector wide studies or data analysis.  Past interns have completed stand-alone projects or worked to initiate, implement, and scale-up existing projects or pilots at the Centre.

The list of summer internship projects can be found online here and in this CDF Project Descriptions document. Interns may also be placed on another of CDF’s ongoing projects.

Internships are unpaid, although CDF will assist with housing and food or provide a small stipend of up to Rs 10,000/month toward living expenses. All interns are encouraged to obtain funding to cover international travel and personal expenses during the internship period.

This year, the TIP/FD will take place between June 8 and August 14, 2009. Applications will be accepted until April 15, 2009, although we encourage interested applicants to apply as soon as possible to ensure the best matching of interests and skills.

Positions of Particular Interest to the TCI Readership: Continue reading

Why you should CARE about microinsurance

We have written about microinsurance before, including SKS’s Vikram Akula’s decision to develop a product for his customers. Now, Bajaj-Allianz and CARE India will be developing a product of their own. In an interesting partnership between the charity and a commercial company, this venture will aim to help individuals substantially improve livelihoods through the safety net insurance can provide. On Allianz’s site there is a great interview with RN Mohanty, Chief Operating Officer, CARE India, speaking to this new partnership. Here is an excerpt:

The biggest challenge was definitely educating people that risk protection is an important part of their lives. We do this because we want to inculcate a culture of savings with the community, not just insuring for the time being. The general mindset in rural India is that unless you get something out of it immediately it is not worth investing. If you look at our client list, close to 90 percent are first-time insurers.

The rest of the interview can be read here.

[TC-I Call to Action]: Programme Head, Centre for Micro Finance

Lakshmi Krishnan of the Centre for Micro Finance, IFMR writes to us about a new opening in the organization.   This is particularly exciting for anyone interested in microfinance, research, and traveling throughout India.  Several classmates in graduate school had worked with IFMR and came away with good experiences after participating in breakthrough research.

IFMR CMF is now hiring a Programme Head in Chennai to manage a portfolio of 4-6 projects with a variety of partners. Read about the IFMR CMF Programme Head position for further information and contact information.

Evaluating social returns on microfinance

Whether you are an individual investor, an institutional fund, or a microfinance organization, the issue of returns on social investment is always a concern.  The difference is usually in the approach that each stakeholder may take in measuring these returns.  The Grameen Foundation made a major stride in the effort to create an evaluation framework by releasing guidelines to evaluate social returns to investments.

As of 2006, socially-focused investors in the U.S. had channeled more than $663 million into microfinance. Most of these investors choose microfinance because they expect financial as well as social returns related to reducing poverty. Until recently, however, there were few tools to help them track how well their investments were achieving their goal of improving the lives of microfinance clients and how those “returns” compared to industry-wide performance benchmarks.

When I read about a new set of guidelines, I imagined some complex framework, or a laundry list of things to look for.  Instead, the guidelines are quite short and simple.  Maybe even the measurement of social returns follows Occam’s razor!

The guidelines are just a first step – some of the questions may need a little more teasing out.  For example,  a question listed for institutional investors to ask: How effective are the MFIs at alleviating poverty?  Investors may want a more elaborated approach in terms of what “effective” means.  At the same time, the strength of these guidelines is that they are flexible and realize that social investments, even in a field like microfinance, can vary.  Along with GF’s previous initiative, the Progress out of Poverty Index, which tracks microfinance institutions’ track records with poverty alleviation, the evaluation guidelines are a welcome development in the world of performance indices.