Fulfilling Responsibility Towards Society an Integral Part of Satin Creditcare’s Mandate

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    HP Singh

    Satin Creditcare Network Limited (SCNL), one of India’s leading microfinance institution has always believed in providing financial assistance to many households which are excluded from the ambit of mainstream financial service providers to enhance their livelihood and promote a productive environment. The company is working towards making a meaningful, long-term, and tangible difference with its ground-level knowledge of every deep-rooted financial issue faced by women in low-income groups. A difference that is redefining the way India looks at the financial needs of the millions whose lives are inexorably linked with the future of the nation.

    Sustainability is an integral part of what we do. Being in a business with social character brings with it enormous responsibility and thus, we have made fulfilment of responsibility towards society an integral part of our corporate culture. We believe that community enrichment is the key to open the doors of success for every organization in the business today. Hence, the social values of our company focus on providing financial services to improve the lives of financially excluded clients and their families to widen the range of sustainable opportunities for communities. 

    We have constantly endeavoured to come up with unique initiatives that have enabled women to bring a positive change in their lives, and in turn, uplift their families and community

    We have always been committed to partnering with externally developed economic, environmental, and social charters/principles for the betterment of the communities we are working with, through the provision of microfinance. It is also about extending our reach to the vast number of financially-excluded households in the real Bharat. Technology is now being harnessed to serve the unmet needs of India’s hinterland, whose aspirations have hitherto remained ignored and unaddressed. It is about that differential which makes businesses build a difference across every facet of the value chain, which, in turn, helps in making a difference in the lives of those excluded masses, while creating an ecosystem of value-led growth.

    Initiatives 

    Women Empowerment

    We have constantly endeavoured to come up with unique initiatives that have enabled women to bring a positive change in their lives, and in turn, uplift their families and community. Almost 100 per cent of our clients are women, as we believe that women are the most effective medium for the upliftment of a household, both socially and financially. The initiatives cover some extremely important necessities in one’s daily life, ranging from access to clean energy, better mobility, safe water and sanitation facilities and empowering workshops to improve financial literacy, relief funds for emergencies, health check-up camps, and skill training workshops amongst others. 

    Along with Nordic Microfinance Initiative (NMI) – a Public-Private partnership between Government of Norway and the leading Norwegian financial institution, we organised six ‘Women Financial Empowerment Workshops’ in five States – Assam, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha during FY 2019-20. Our centre leader workshops, leadership empowerment workshops, financial literacy training and similar initiatives help in showcasing their finished products, dispel information about various government social schemes, bring about financial literacy and open windows of discussion on social issues affecting them. These workshops have proved to be an effective medium for connecting with women in even the most vulnerable segments of society.

    Around 300-350 Centre leaders participated in each of these workshops. Representatives from district administration, Reserve Bank of India (RBI), NABARD, State Rural Livelihood Missions, Polytechnic Training Institutes and District Lead Bank attended these workshops and shared information regarding various government social schemes, financial literacy, banking knowledge with our clients. The Centre leaders also displayed their handicrafts, wooden and clay artefacts, sarees, and other products in the designated stalls set up for the purpose. Some of them also came up on the stage and shared their inspirational journey with us. They also urged other Centre leaders to come forward and work towards strengthening their social and financial well-being with our support.

    Skill Development Training

    SCNL organised six skill development training in partnership with USHA sewing machines in Assam. Skilled professionals from USHA sewing machines taught cutting and tailoring skills to our clients at our branch offices of Guwahati and Sivasagar regions. Post-training, many of our clients started their tailoring enterprise to support their families’ livelihood.

    We continuously endeavour to understand the latent needs of our clients, most of whom are rural women, and to design innovative loan products that will enable them to bring a positive change in their lives

    Financial Awareness

    Nine awareness camps in Sivasagar region were organised on Credit Discipline and Financial Literacy in the wake of Assam microfinance crisis last year. The average footfall in each camp was between 180-200 clients. They were made aware of the importance of maintaining good credit discipline. They were also given basic financial literacy training to enable them to make informed decisions regarding the financial aspects of their lives.

    Customised Loans

    We continuously endeavour to understand the latent needs of our clients, most of whom are rural women, and to design innovative loan products that will enable them to bring a positive change in their lives. In our quest to make a difference in the quality of lives of our clients, we have developed and offering customised loans to facilitate clients’ access to clean energy, better mobility and household water and sanitation facilities in addition to the business loans.

    Our clean energy loans, which focused on solar energy, have made women clients more independent and progressive as well as considerably reduced the dependence of these women’s households and businesses on kerosene oil for lighting purposes. We have partnered with leading solar providers and we are facilitating access to solar power-driven home lighting systems for our clients. We are also currently offering a loan to our clients to facilitate access to solar-powered home lighting systems. During FY 2017-18, we upgraded from a simple solar lamp to a solar home lighting system to enable better access to electricity. A total of 54,704 clean energy loans were disbursed in FY 2019-20. 

    We recently partnered with Micro Energy Credits (MEC) for their Global Carbon Program. Our future CERs, estimated as on December 2020, are 150-200 CERs. Since 2007, Micro Energy Credits (MEC) has specialized in clean energy microfinance to bring clean energy solutions to millions of people in India, Kenya and Mongolia. MEC’s carbon programme enables financial institutions to use carbon finance to scale up and sustain their clean energy lending programmes. We are one of the newest partners of MEC. Our clean energy programme is an illustration of our dedication to serve the bottom of the pyramid section of society by providing a customised financial solution.

    We offered a special loan for the purchase of bicycles to empower women and enhance their mobility so that can manage their home and work smoothly. For the same, we joined hands with Hero Cycles to embark on a new journey in April 2018 to take sustainable and affordable mobility solution to every rural family. The journey started with 15 branches in Tezpur, Assam, and expanded to Katihar, Bihar with another 21 branches. The loan is now made available across States where our company is operational. We have disbursed a total of 60,265 bicycle loans during FY 2019-20. Feedback received reflect on the utility of this loan in making these women as well as the male members of their households to be less dependent on public transport, for commuting to markets, production centres, banks, etc. It also saves time of commuting to/from work, and thereby, the client/spouse can spend more time at work, leading to more income. Many also stated that because of the bicycle purchased with SCNL loan, their children, especially daughters, can safely commute to their school and continue their studies.

    We also offer small ticket size loans for the purchase of home appliances such as pressure cooker, induction cooktop, mobile phone to our clients to ease their lives. During FY 2019-20, we disbursed a total of 20,239 mobiles and 7,460 cookware. Loan for cooking appliances also led to a reduction in fuel expenditure for the households owing to less cooking gas consumption.

    Many women across the length and breadth of the country now prefer to take a loan from us rather than from the local money lenders of their village, due to our community-centric initiatives, commitment towards empowering women, and our smooth and fast services.

    Disaster Relief Initiatives

    We organise flood relief activities and distribution of ration, medicines and blankets for the flood-hit villages in Assam, Bihar, and West Bengal during monsoons every year to support the affected communities. We also supported the affected communities in Odisha in the aftermath of Fani Cyclone. Apart from ration distribution at our branch offices, our relief teams also went to flood-hit areas in jeeps and boats to distribute ration packages and blankets.

    One of the major barriers to safe water and sanitation is affordable financing. Market research and the subsequent pilot conducted by us in selected branches of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh revealed that the upfront cost of a toilet or a piped water connection can easily equal a household’s entire monthly income

    Health Camps

    We regularly organise free health check-up camps in partnership with local hospitals. Along with health check-up, we share awareness generation about nutrition, disease prevention and safe sanitation with the beneficiaries. A total of five health check-up camps in Assam and Odisha were organised during FY 2019-20. On average, around 300-350 villagers attended these camps at each location and benefitted from free health examination and medical care provided by expert doctors. 

    Safe Sanitation and Hygiene Initiatives

    One of the major barriers to safe water and sanitation is affordable financing. Market research and the subsequent pilot conducted by us in selected branches of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh revealed that the upfront cost of a toilet or a piped water connection can easily equal a household’s entire monthly income. Many are willing to purchase this infrastructure if they can spread the cost over time by saving or borrowing. Realising this, we started offering loans to our clients to enable them to establish water and sanitation facilities at their households.

    Through our water and sanitation lending, we have been constructively working to address this problem in around 80 districts and more than 25,000 villages in Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. In FY 2019-20, we disbursed a total of 27,017 WASH loans. Since the launch of these loans in 2016, we have supported more than 1.2 lakh households to construct household level toilet or water facility. The biggest achievement for us has been to enable change in the mindset of people. More and more families in these villages today are willing to build/repair a toilet in their homes so that they can have safe and disease-free lives and improve the overall health and hygiene standards of their village/ neighbourhood. Having a household toilet has led to elevated social status for the people. 

    Growth and development never happen in a vacuum. It must be accomplished with by sustained teamwork that translates strategies into on-ground reality

    Supporting Local Schools

    We have been supporting local government schools by providing stationery, plantation drives and access to safe water through installation of RO units. We believe that the community is the primary custodian and the recipient of a school’s services and hence, initiatives like this positively impact trust-building between us and local communities. In FY 2019-20, we distributed school bags to students in four government schools located in Upper Assam.

    The above initiatives highlight how deeply committed we are towards uplifting the low-income strata of society, bringing forth many unique initiatives, right from sanitation, to skill development, to health check-up camps, mobility and transport programmes that bring a remarkable difference in the lives of the low-income groups.

    At the heart of it, we at SCNL are all about breaking barriers and helping women realise every dream for themselves and their families. We pride ourselves in enabling women to completely transform their lives, and sustainability plays a key role in realising this goal. We are an organisation with a heart and a social character that has made the fulfilment of responsibility towards society an integral part of everything that we do. We believe that community enrichment and building society from the ground up, with a special focus on every possible need of economically-backward groups, greatly widens the range of sustainable opportunities for communities. We have a long-lasting legacy of not just empowering women from marginalised groups, but also instilling in them a sense of pride and self-confidence.

    Growth and development never happen in a vacuum. It must be accomplished with by sustained teamwork that translates strategies into on-ground reality. We at SCNL believe in constantly sharpening our edges, which remain the cornerstone of our transformation blueprint, specially designed to give back to the society with care. 

    HP Singh is Chairman & Managing Director, Satin Creditcare Network Limited.