The Microfinance Industry in India

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    The Microfinance Industry in India

    Abstract:

    This industry report presents a detailed overview of the microfinance industry in India. The advent of new

    millennium witnessed significant developments in the Indian microfinance industry, which attracted the

    attention of several private sector and foreign banks.

    The report analyzes the potential of Indian microfinance industry and examines the recent polices of

    Indian government to boost the growth of the industry. It describes various microfinance models popular

    in India and includes a note on the leading players in the Indian microfinance industry. Finally, the report

    examines the challenges facing the industry in the near future.

    Introduction:

    India has one of most extensive banking infrastructures in the world. However, millions of poor people in

    India do not have access to basic banking services like savings and credit. In the mid-1990s, about 70% of

    India's population lives in rural areas which account for only 30% of the bank deposits.

    About 70% of the rural poor do not have bank accounts and 87% of them do not have access to credit

    from banks.3 In the same period, the share of non-institutional agencies including traders, money lenders,

    friends and relatives in the outstanding cash dues of rural households was 36%.4

    In the past, both public and private commercial banks in India perceived rural banking as a high-risk,

    high-cost business i.e. a business with high transaction costs and high levels of uncertainty. Rural

    borrowers, on their part, felt that banking procedures were cumbersome and that banks were not very

    willing to give them credit.Commenting on the problems faced by the microfinance industry in India, YSP Thorat, managing director

    of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), and Graham AN Wright, an

    international expert in microfinance, wrote, "Poor credit-deposit ratios, unsustainable lending and high-

    levels of non-performing assets often cripple much of this infrastructure."

    In 1954, All India Rural Credit Survey Committee recommended expansion of the cooperative credit

    system to cater to the credit needs of the rural poor. The regional rural banks (RRBs) were incorporated in

    1976. By the mid-1970s, the banking sector was operating as a three-tier system. The first tier consisted

    of commercial banks, RRBs formed the second tier, and cooperative banks formed the third tier. About

    49% of all scheduled commercial banks operated from rural areas. In the early 1980s, the Indian

    government realized the need for microfinance to provide the rural poor with savings and microcredit

    services. Loans available through microcredit schemes were more accessible to the poor people as

    compared to bank loans. It also compared favorably with non-institutional money lenders in terms of cost.

    In the late 1990s, the microfinance business was boosted by the innovative initiatives take up by

    microfinance institutions (MFIs), non-governmental institutions (NGOs) and banks.

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    They offered micro-credit i.e. credit provided to poor people for financial and business services and for

    self employment in rural areas. It fulfilled their basic needs and emergency requirements. The

    microfinance business had the ability to reach the most deserving people and also increased the

    repayment rates for banks, which were, at the time, burdened by mounting non-performing assets (NPAs)

    on the rural credit extended by them.

    Background Note:

    In the early 1980s, NABARD study found that though the network of rural bank branches had been trying

    to create self employment opportunities by providing bank credit for over two decades, many poor people

    remained outside the purview of the formal banking system. The existing banking policies, procedures

    and systems including deposit and loan products were not tailored to the requirements of the poor. They

    required better access to services and products rather than subsidized credit. The study concluded that

    there was a pressing need to improve access to microfinance. It therefore recommended that alternative

    policies, systems and procedures be put in place in order to boost the growth of microfinance in India.

    The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and NABARD were actively involved in spreading the network of

    commercial banks in rural areas, especially after nationalization. RBI had made it compulsory for all

    private sector banks to open at least 25% of their branches in rural and semi-urban areas.

    It had also stipulated that 40% of the net bank credit should be allotted to sectors categorized as priority

    sectors, like housing, rural development and agriculture. With these measures, commercial banks did

    move into rural areas but the advances given to the poor remained very low. To improve the accessibility

    of the existing banking network to the poor, the Self Help Group (SHG) - Bank Linkage Model was

    launched in 1992 with a pilot project for promoting 500 SHGs. The objective of the microfinance

    initiatives was to facilitate empowerment of the poor, while pursuing the macro economic objective of

    overall economic growth. In 1995, the RBI set up a working group to study the possibility of linkagesbetween informal SHGs and banks.

    Excerpts:

    Types of Microfinance institutions:

    Microfinance institutions develop and deliver a range of financial products for the poor. There are three

    categories of microfinance institutions. They are:

    NON-PROFIT MFIS/NGO MFIS

    These are Societies under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 or corresponding State Acts.

    Others in this category are Public Trusts under the Indian Trust Act 1882, and non-profit companies under

    Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956. There are several NGOs which are registered as trust/society and

    have helped the SHGs form into federations. Federations are formal institutions and carry out both non-

    financial and financial activities including social and capacity building activities, SHG training, and

    promotion of new groups, apart from financial intermediation.

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    These institutions cannot undertake financial intermediation activities on a large scale, as they are

    prohibited from carrying out any commercial activities.

    Microfinance - Major Players

    The major players which were instrumental in the growth of microfinance industry in India includedNABARD, SIDBI, Rashtriya Mahila Kosh, FWWB and SHARE Microfin Limited.

    NABARD

    NABARD was established in 1982 to provide credit to the rural sector. NABARD was a pioneer in

    microfinance programs in India.

    The bank's vision is "to facilitate sustained access to financial services for the unreached poor in rural

    areas through various microfinance innovations in a cost effective and sustainable manner."

    By 2005, NABARD's SHG-Bank Linkage program had emerged as one of the largest microfinance

    programs in the world. NABARD also collaborated with NGOs, MFIs, banks and governmental agencies

    in order to use other models of rural credit like the Grameen Model and the individual banking model.

    Encouraged by the success of the SHG program, NABARD planned to link 1 million SHGs by 2007 and

    reach 100 million rural poor.

    The Future:

    Many private and foreign banks have unveiled their plans to enter the Indian microfinance sector

    because of its very low NPAs and high repayment rate of more than 95% in spite of offering loans

    without any collateral security.

    The main reason for high repayment rates was that the loans were managed at the community

    level. Borrowers took loans to improve their standard of living and start a small business. If the

    repayment was done in time, only then were more loans given. According to Udaia Kumar,

    Chairman and Managing Director, SHARE Microfin Limited, "In all cases there is no securitytaken. We don't have a legal system. We build a relationship with the client. We motivate them,

    train them, and give them the confidence that they have the capacity to handle. We ensure that the

    money is used for the purpose that they have taken. We ensure that they make profits. Thendefinitely they will come back with the repayment. Our repayment rates are 100%.

    Issue:

    Evaluate and analyze the trends and new developments in microfinance industry in India.

    Do you think Microfinance has a better future in India?

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