Leader: Having partnered with Nokia and Vodafone for its m4 initiative, Sunder Thiyagarajan, Head-Madura Micro-Markets, Madura Microfinance talks about m4 and other microfinance initiatives aimed providing a platform for members to interconnect and interact using the mobile phone
What are your various micro-finance initiatives till date?
Madura Microfinance, which owes its legacy to the erstwhile Bank of Madura (it merged with ICICI Bank in 2000), was founded in 2005, and received its NBFC licence from Reserve Bank of India to provide micro-lending services in 2006.
At Madura we follow a four-fold approach: Self Help Groups: Self Help Groups (SHGs) are self-assembled groups of 15 to 20 rural women who come together to guarantee each other’s loans and form a learning and support group for one another, Micro Education: A method to convey information to the members on various topics of interest, such as entrepreneurship and business, social issues such as health and education and general knowledge such the internet, Micro Finance: Lowest interest rate in the country, Micro Markets: Various methods to help these business owners access new markets and learn about new opportunities and products.
In a market that is rapidly emerging with microfinance initiatives, what is your USP for staying ahead of the race?
As a microfinance company, Madura Microfinance looks at bringing about social transformation. It believes in bringing individuals together into a dynamic network based on critical knowledge and market information, facilitates productive and innovative interactions and becomes the driver of sustainable economic prosperity in the rural population. With this in mind we have created a cost efficient and profitable system for the flow of finance and information that together can deliver scalable social value.
With 3G coming in, suddenly m-finance is being given a boost. What are your new mobile initiatives for microfinance?
We have tied up with Nokia for the handsets and with Vodafone as the service provider, for our voice-based m4 initiative. Special benefits for the members include: members get a chance to buy a phone with zero percent interest and repayment over five installments, members get a Vodafone SIM card where the call rates are as low as 10p/minute, in the future, members get loan alerts, cookery tips, health tips and more via these phones.
How has the uptake been for microfinance among the rural customers for your offerings?
Madura’s unique approach which combines education with funding and helping find new markets for our members to sell their product makes us very popular, a testimony to that is the fact that though we are currently only in Tamil Nadu, we have over 400,000 members. Our latest m4 initiative has received tremendous response from rural customers.
Are you planning to tie up with any government agency to branch out into m-wallet/m-banking?
M4 initiative is in the preliminary stage and the potential as we see in this is great. But to get going the utilities like internet usage, then m-banking and more may take some time. So far we have not approached any government agencies to initiate mobile banking opportunities.
Is it a profitable venture for you, being interest-free, and is this your main USP?
The purpose of the initiative is to provide a platform for our members to interconnect and interact using the mobile phone. This would help them to reach out to larger market. Profitability is not why Madura is encouraging this initiative. It is about bringing a social economic change in the lives of rural women. The USP of the phone is that the Members get a chance to buy a phone with zero percent interest. Other services like voice-based services providing the rural populace with health and business tips through voice alerts are value additions.