BISWA: Fostering Inclusive Growth through Microfinance

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Case Details:

Case Code : LDEN077
Case Length : 26 Pages
Period : 2004-2010
Pub Date : 2011
Teaching Note : Available
Organization : BISWA
Industry : Microfinance
Countries : India

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"Poverty crushes the human spirit...Microfinance is a critical anti-poverty tool. When the poorest, especially women, receive credit, they become economic actors and are empowered. They are empowered to improve not only their own lives but, in a widening circle of impact, the lives of their families, their communities, and their nations. Microfinance can help make India's economic growth more inclusive"

-Khirod Chandra Malick, Chairman, Bharat Integrated Social Welfare Agency.


"How do we ensure that the poorest of the poor benefit from our microfinance program while at the same time ensure that our organization continues to remain financially sustainable?" asked Mr. Khirod Chandra Malick (Malick), Founder, Chairman (Chief Functionary), Bharat Integrated Social Welfare Agency (BISWA), to members of the senior management team of BISWA's microfinance program who had assembled at his office. It was another hot and humid day at Sambalpur, a town in the western belt of the eastern Indian state of Odisha.1 It was the end of June 2010 and summer was at its peak. Sitting in his office, Malick was going through the progress reports of BISWA's microfinance program.

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He recalled how his decision to focus on microfinance to further BISWA's mission of social development had paid off handsomely. He said,

"BISWA started in the year 1994 from the nondescript village of Baramunda in Sambalpur district. It has an outreach of 16 states now."

Along the way, the organization had overcome various challenges. Initially operating as a social service organization that also provided micro credit to poor people, BISWA had since adopted an integrated approach to bring about a convergence between microfinance and micro enterprise development, micro marketing, micro insurance, and other social development initiatives. It also floated a Non Banking Financial Company (NBFC) to focus solely on microfinance. Till mid-2010, BISWA's microfinance program had directly touched the lives of 4,015,240 people. However, Malick realized that this was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. His aim was to ramp up BISWA's presence to cover nearly all the states of India by the end of 2012. However, he knew that achieving that would not be easy as Microfinance Institutions (MFIs), particularly mid-sized and NGO2 -MFIs such as BISWA, had to face several challenges, and this despite the fact that the microfinance sector in India was showing positive trends. According to Malick,

"As a social organization we have to deal with the targeted customers who basically are not aware of the income generating techniques. So a major concern for us is to strike the right balance between our mission of social development and financial sustainability as a social organization and as a MFI."

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1] Odisha was earlier known as Orissa. It was one of the poorest states in India with 43% people of the state living below the poverty line with a per capita of less than US$1 per day.
2] NGO (acronym for Non Governmental Organization) is a legally constituted organization that operates independently of any government.

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