Friday, March 18, 2011

Mann Deshi Bank: An amazing success!

Last updated on: June 15, 2010 19:39 IST
Manu A B in Mumbai
This is an extraordinary story of women's empowerment in rural India. Women in Satara district in Maharashtra run a bank and a B-school successfully.
Founded by Chetna Gala Sinha, the Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank was formed with the active participation of illiterate, rural women in 1997.

It was a struggle against all odds for Chetna Sinha who wanted rural women to be financially independent. The women needed to be removed from the shackles of poverty and money lenders in the drought-prone areas of Satara district in Maharashtra.

Money was the root cause of all their troubles. Finally, the relentless efforts of 500 rural women led to the mobilisation of a shareholder capital of Rs 600,000 to start their own financial institution.

"Founded in 1997, it is India's first rural financial institution to receive a cooperative license from the Reserve Bank of India. Today, Mann Deshi Bank based in Mhaswad, a village in Satara district, is the largest microfinance bank in Maharashtra with about 127,000 clients. Besides a business school to train women into success entrepreneurs, Mann Deshi Bank offers individual and group loans, savings, insurance and pension plans," says an optimistic Chetna Sinha.

Mobilising these poor, illiterate women, making them understand the need to start a bank that could be their economic lifeline was quite a daunting task.

"The biggest challenge was money. We needed deposits, people to fulfill conditions of the Reserve Bank of India. When we submitted the applications with thumb impressions of the members, our application got rejected.
It was a tough battle, which lasted for two years. The women were then trained to read and write and given training in basic finance. It was very fulfilling to go back to the Reserve Bank with a group of women who had learned to calculate interest on any principal amount. The RBI officials were impressed," says Chetna.
With this, the bank crossed the biggest hurdle and got the license. The Mann Deshi Bank today prides to have assets of over Rs 40 crore (Rs 400 million) and a share capital of Rs 3.5 crore (Rs 35 million). Last year, the bank's net profit stood at Rs 20 lakh (Rs 2 million). "The bank has helped more than 62,000 women to build assets, own property and start small businesses," she says.

Besides this, the Mann Deshi Foundation runs a B-school which trains women to become successful entrepreneurs.

In 2002, Yale University appointed Chetna Sinha as a World Fellow, and in 2003 Harvard University recognised her as a 'Bridge Builder'. Chetna has received several additional awards for her pioneering work with women in drought affected areas of Western Maharashtra and Karnataka.

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