Thuan Nguyen Thi of Vietnam borrowed only $75 to buy vegetables and launch her food shop in the local market. The shop is a success and the loan was repaid on Christmas eve, 2007.
Are you in the investors’ league?
Most of us are, and are simply unaware of it. Today, America’s entrepreneurs clog V.C. showcases asking for pittance startup sums measuring typically in the millions. But step abroad into the right venue and you can put societally-contributing businesses on track for the price of taking your date out to a fine restaurant.
The process is called microinvesting and it has exploded across the planet. The Deutsche Bank claims that microinvesting demand will soon reach the $250 billion mark - 10 times the amount currently lent. Yet microloan by microloan business is leading the way towards fighting hunger and poverty.
Over the last year, Pulkit Mathur of New Brunswick has invested in 32 small businesses in several countries. Mathur’s money is loaned to family shops or sole proprietors who just need the initial basics to dig in and get to work.
* Ruth Cramson
in Ghana needs a $1000 loan to buy more “crates of minerals” (Malta Guinness, Coca Cola, Fanta, and Sprite) to fill her drinking spot attached to her chop bar.
* Ms. Savriniso Djuraeva
of Khujand, Tajikistan applies for a $475 loan to purchase a new sewing machine for her clothes making and repair business.
Mathur answers several such people with a loan. It is not that Mathur is some softhearted pushover who drops dollars in every envelope of each pleading non-profit which arrives with his junk mail. He is an information systems consultant in New Brunswick who knows well the seas of international commerce. “I invest because it is a way of bringing money into the local economy; hiring people where it’s most needed,” Mathur says. “These are poor people who can and will pull themselves out of poverty if they are given just a little opportunity.”
Working through Kiva.org microinvestors, Mathur has about $1000 out in investments at any given time. Repayments come in periodically, with 30 percent of all his investments currently fully repaid. Mathur receives, via Kiva, monthly reports on the individual recipient and his business. He prefers to use Kiva’s shareholder plan, in which he joins other lenders in putting up a share of the needed funds. “I like taking on a little of many people’s loans,” he says. “It diversifies the risk.”
One of the most popular microinvesting organizations, Kiva.org arranges loans to working poor around the globe, outside Western Europe and the United States. The loans, typically $600 to $1500, are given on a term of six to 12 months. The Individuals applying for a loan are met by a Kiva field representative who performs due diligence. Once approved, loan applications with full stories and pictures go on the Kiva website (www.kiva.org
) where hopefully one or more browsing lenders will opt to invest. Lenders receive a straight repayment, with the nominal interest charged going to help the lean Kiva organization.
Philip Otunga of Kenya is a widower, father of two. He has repaid most of the $250 he borrowed to buy tools to expand his carpentry business.
Several microlending organizations have currently crowded the field, each with varying geographics, financial minimums, and amounts of lender-lendee interaction. One of the best ways to both make a choice and to meet other veteran lenders is to connect with Net Impact’s New Jersey Chapter. Comprised of professionals in all fields, Net Impact is an idealistic group of business’ best who are, as they state, “committed to using the power of business to improve the world.” This includes urging companies to adopt climate change policies, working for social entrepreneurship here at home, and helping with microfinance abroad. Visit firstname.lastname@example.org
or find the national headquarters on www.netimpact.org
Gaurav Verma serves as New Jersey’s Net Impact corporation relations lead, laboring hard to create awareness of global microfinance opportunities. He also helps novices sort out all the myriad possibilities. Verma warns that recently microlending has taken off for both individual and institutional levels. In some cases, initial “micro” loans begin at $50,000. To help investors select, Verma comprised the following list of micro lending resources.
. As mentioned above, individual lenders lend, via Kiva, to a specific borrower and their institutional partners (perhaps a local bank.) Principal is returned to the lender once all installments have paid back by the borrower - an average of 12 months. The advantage here is that lenders actually know about their individual borrower and his business.
. An e-bay company, Mircoplace allows lenders to make region-specific choices. You don’t know exactly to whom the loan goes, but lenders can obtain a profile of the client pool. Investment notes have a fixed interest rate (two to three percent) and a two to three year maturity, depending on the ones chosen.
* Calvert Funds
) Including, but not limited to microfinance, Calvert invest its funds in a socially responsible manner. The firm does a lot of research on the social and environmental footprint, before offering them for investment. Yields typically match market levels.
) Founded in 2003, This development bank invests in under-served minority neighborhood projects in and around Chicago. They offer CD’s with three to four annual percent, maturing in as little as three months. Investment minimum is $2,500.
* SKS Microfinancing Pvt. Ltd
. Since its founding in l997, SKS has funded over 60,000 women in the poorest parts of India with over $170 million. Much of this funding has been achieved by SKS founder Vikram Akula working with Indian banks, but there is still ample room for individual investors, particularly on the larger scale.
* Grameen Foundation
) It sprang from a few friends working in Bangladesh in l997. Today, based in Washington D.C., Grameen has established a network of 53 microfinance institutions helping 31 million people in 23 countries. Visiting their site is a great way for lenders to find the right microfinancer who matches their needs.
* Pro Mujer
) For women throughout Latin America, Pro Mujer (meaning literally “for women,” provides microfinancing, business and health training. Investors tend to be more organizations, but individuals are welcomed. You do not choose specific borrowers or learn about them.
There are a host of other funds and microinvestment vehicles. The most comprehensive list available can be found on http://www.microcapital.org/?page_id=7
. Once a lender has made a selection, he can check it out through Microrate (www.microrate.com
) an agency which examines microfinance institutions based on risk, transparency, and effectiveness.
Kenyan butcher Pius Otieno required $250 to expand his meat business and keep his family in school.
Within the past decades, the actions of several of the larger corporations have dragged the overall image of business deep into the mud. While these acts truly have been reprehensible, and their financial effects huge, such companies do not represent the business community today.
It has been said that the purpose of economic systems is the satisfaction of human needs and desires. Certainly if anything is to pull the world out of its current hunger and poverty cycles, it will be these business tools in the hands of the right business people. Individuals like Pulkit Mathur, Gaurav Verma, and all the members of Net Impact have witnessed the plight, and are employing the best free enterprise systems to help overcome it. More than the well publicized scoundrels in commerce, these business men and women - lenders and borrowers - are the ones who really will build and make a permanent mark. B4
holds a fervent belief that business people can turn the tide in this world. A native of Bombay India, Verma came to the U.S. 10 years ago, graduating from Rutgers University in 2003 with a Bachelor’s in computer science and economics. After college,Verma worked for the exporting firm Wotek Corporation in Piscataway. For the past four years, he has served as a business analyst for Citigroup, determining the higher levels of credit for the firm’s elite customers. Verma is an officer in the New Jersey Chapter of Net Impact, the socially conscious organization for professionals.Pulkit Mathur
emigrated from his New Delhi, India home to Parsippany in 1992. He earned his Bachelor’s in engineering and computer science in 2001. He has worked as a trainer at Siemens USA, and for the last six years has worked as an e-commerce instructor.