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Ratna Vishwanathan, CEO, MFIN Talks About India's First Ever Financial Literacy App & The Vision Behind It

Their vision is to be an engine of inclusive growth for India and help provide financial services to 100 million people by the year 2020.

Microfinance institutions Network (MFIN) is the Industry Association and Self Regulatory Orgfanization (SRO) of the RBI regulated NBFC-MFIs. MFIN through its members, helps provide financial services to low income households in a responsible and transparent manner, thereby helping them build sustainable livelihoods.

Their vision is to be an engine of inclusive growth for India and help provide financial services to 100 million people by the year 2020. For the year 2016-17, MFIN has a 11-member board consisting of President, Vice-President and a CEO, elected 7 member team and 3 independent members.

On Tuesday, 25th April 2017, MFIN held an International Conclave:"Microfinance in Asia - A Mosiac." It was bespoke event focussed solely on microfinace and innovation, whether through better banking processes or the more ubiquitous teleco route. The conference witnessed participation of delegates from many Asian Countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, China, Russia, Bangladesh, Laos, Indonesia, Myanmar and Philipines.

BW Businessworld's Soumya Gupta learnt more about the idea behind launching the first financial literacy app, in conversation with Ms. Ratna Vishwanathan, CEO, MFIN.

She threw some more light upon why there is a need to address the gap between people of aristocrats, middle-class and the poverty-stricken people and move towards an equal distribution of financial resources.

BW:  How did gauge the need of financial awareness in our country & how will this app help?
Ratna Vishwanathan: 
I would like to say that firstly, organisations like ours do several conferences internally, we have a lot of  national level conclaves on host of subjects like 'Digital Payments' , 'Financial Inclusion' etc but to know the financial industry leaders, globally is a very different ball game altogether.  We also need to learn and grow and share ideas with more developed and developing nations. A lot of national projects off-late have been very focused external engagement and I think somewhere there is a gap. Yes, whatever we are doing, we are doing great but we also need to add perpsectives and evolve timely. And we also need to put forth what we are doing to others as well. That's where the idea or the origination of this concept for digital financial literacy app came from.

BW: What is the idea behind country partners and this international conclave, mapping the road to financial inclusion in India?
Ratna Vishwanathan:
Last time we had South-Asian countries with us and this time we have South-East Asian countries. We want to learn something & share something, it's not about capacity- building  or any other big-words. And we are planing to document all this at the end of the conference, so PWC is doing the documentation and soon we are planning to come up with a report.

Our Micro-finance model is based on the Grameen Model brought to us by Professor Mohd. Younis, so that's where the Indian microfinance derives its inspiration from. Today, slightly diffrently we are doing this community based microfinance and there is also 'for profit based microfinance' co-existing simultaneously. Countries differ, models differ and contexts differ but having international participants at the end of the day helps us in the mission of helping the poor come out of poverty.

So, our learning not only help us but our neighboring countries as well get the insight of how they can support the people at the bottom of the pyramid. Get the unbanked and the  under-banked at a level above the water, where they can easily survive, make them aware about their right financial condition. The reason we have built such a platform is to 'serve public good' which is then cross-cutting across countries. It actually going to improve the ecosystem.

BW: What opportunities you want to build by the Financial Awareness App?
Ratna Vishwanathan:
The App's focus is very much towards informing, creating awarenss, and is very client focussed. Now what happens is, the clients by and large, they want money. Nobody has ever given them money & they look forward to microfinancing schemes available as it eliminates the risk of unsecured loans. The app has a Ready-reckoner among the three modules it contains, so if I put in the value I have borrowed, the rate of interest and the duration I am paying back in, I can calculate how much I need to pay. Nobody can force someone to pay, unless the borrower understands the logic. He or she won't be cheated by the money-lenders now, it will be understood if he is over-charging and it will facilitate planned paybacks, which today is absent among borrowers. It hopes to mitigate most of the challenges the poor face at the hands of money-lenders.

                                                                       -Ends-


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