Microfinance Institutions (MFIs), in India and elsewhere, work mostly for poor women—those labouring in the informal sector, those who are self-employed and those who need a bit of help to become self-employed and survive. But, as the sector grows bigger and bigger, managements of MFIs tend to be dominated by men for a variety of reasons.
BT picks out six outstanding women who are at the top of their organisations. Almost all of them are highly qualified and could have ended up as whitecollar professionals, but were drawn into microfinance.
G. Padmaja Reddy
40, Managing Director, Spandana Sphoorty Financial
Organisation’s key objective: To be the leading service provider.
G.Padmaja Reddy almost had to wind up her first venture in 1998 but was saved at the last minute with a loan from the Friends of Women’s World Banking. Today, Spandana disburses about Rs 10 crore a day. Recently, when it wanted to raise Rs 200 crore, it got the money from PE players, through word of mouth, in 15 days. Spandana is now the secondlargest MFI in India with 1.8 million loan accounts, covering eight states. Its aim: to be present in 15 states with 5 million clients and have loans outstanding of at least Rs 5,000 crore within three years.
Jayshree Ashwinkumar Vyas
55, Managing Director, Shri Mahila Sewa Sahakari Bank (SEWA Bank)
Organisation’s key objective: To help poor self-employed women with financial services and guidance on building assets and businesses. Jayshree Ashwinkumar Vyas a.k.a. Jayshreeben has been devising and implementing innovative products for 19 years as SEWA Bank’s Managing Director. Ex Examples: an integrated social security scheme for women in the informal sector and a micropension for self-employed women. “Rather than look at pure credit needs, we have taken a life-cycle approach and address all the financial needs of our customers,” says Jayshreeben. Her goal: to increase her depositor base in Gujarat to 1 million from 3,50,000 now.
33, CEO, Samhita Community Development Services
Organisation’s key objective: Innovative provision of economic, primary health and essential social services. One of the principal architects of SKS Microfinance, Praseeda Kunam joined after picking up an MBA and Masters in information management from the US. From SKS, she moved to ABN AMRO Foundation to work for MFIs and then pooled her savings to set up Samhita Community Development Services in end-2007, at Rewa, Madhya Pradesh. Kunam is using open-source software to track her customer household’s performance. Her goal: take microfinance and primary health services to half a million poor households.