By Ramesh S Arunachalam, Rural Finance Practitioner
The loan officer, by a large margin, has always been a “he” (it is a ‘her”, rarely), at least in the adapted grameen replicators in India – a commonly used metaphor for some of India’s largest MFIs.
Loan Officer – Field Staff
The loan officer may simply be called as a loan officer or project assistant or field coordinator etc. The loan officer, typically, as I have seen him over the years, starts his day at around 5.30 AM in the morning, getting up and readying himself to go to the field and meet micro-finance clients. Among other things, the collection sheet and disbursement schedule are critical documents and the loan officer goes through these before setting off on the day’s journey.
In a typical adapted grameen replicator, the branch is located at a central place and the loan officers cover a radius of 25 kms around the branch. They, by and large, stay in the branch in a back room – 3 or 4 or sometimes even 5 of them huddled together. Often, the living conditions are woefully inadequate by any standards. They cook their own food in this small room and also use it to house their things as well as sleep.
The loan officer starts from the branch at around 6 AM and reaches the venue of the centre (a commonplace in a village) typically by 6.30 AM in the morning for the centre meeting. The traditional model, which was by and large followed by many of the adapted grameen replicators in India – starts with a roll call (group attendance) followed by various activities such as loan repayment, loan disbursement, pledge/oath taking and the like. Generally speaking, given that loan officer has various records (including receipts) to update (both for the client/MFI) and also given that discussions may be held amongst the members with regard to which of them will get the loans in subsequent weeks, it should be safe to assume that a center meeting will last at least an hour, if not more.
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