Skip to main content

Tiruchirappalli - it's a mouthful isn't it? Thoughts of an intern from the field

Just a week ago, I had the opportunity to visit a rural village near Trichy, Tamil Nadu to assist with the pilot of an upcoming study that CMF is conducting with Access Development Services (Delhi). It was a great opportunity to put theory into practice and, in comparison to the hustle, bustle and smog of Chennai, Trichy was (literally) a breath of fresh air.

Of course, being a complete urbanite, I had never visited a village - much less an Indian one - before and I was not sure what to expect. But what I found was that the village was much more sanitized and advanced than I had imagined. In particular, there was a pervasive laid-back vibe in the village that made the trip very enjoyable.

That aside, and even though our pilot sample was extremely small (we only interviewed 4-5 households), I made two interesting observations:

Firstly, the clientele of the MFI we interviewed were richer than the average village household. For one, most of their houses were larger and had more furniture than that of their neighbors. This made me question the oft-mentioned exclusion of the ultra-poor by Microfinance, a conundrum that I had discussed with a fellow intern. His view was that Microfinance had done enough for the moderate-poor and the onus was now on MFIs/NGOs to help the ultra-poor. I for one, disagree. I think the Indian Government should be the one, as much as possible, to take the lead on coming up with alternative measures - not NGOs nor MFIs. The National Employment Rural Guarantee Act (NREGA) is a case in point.

Secondly, the villagers were very enthusiastic about answering our questions even though we did not provide them with any gifts or rewards - a puzzle that I've yet to resolve. Yes, granted, one reason could be because they had never seen a Singaporean-Chinese boy, but over and above that, we even had 3 villagers who put down their chores and gleefully made their way to the house we were in. They were then more than happy to spend close to an hour engaging us in a discussion on MFIs and their livelihoods in general! (On the other hand, of course, some clients were thoroughly irritated when we asked them for the umpteenth time whether they had borrowed from their employers/landlords.)

On the whole, this enthusiasm was great for the conduct of our pilot but left me with one nagging doubt - the veracity of answers given by survey respondents. What if these villagers were purposefully tailoring their answers in a way they thought we wanted them to? I am not accusing respondents of having a motive to bias our research studies, but it could well be that our taking time out to visit these villages and interview them compelled these households to tell us exactly just how life-changing their Microfinance loans had been. (NB: This potential bias was a primary motivation for the authors of Portfolios of the Poor to use "Financial Diaries" in place of surveys to investigate the financial behavior of the poor.)

Having said that, the pilot was invaluable in allowing me a first-hand look at the impact of Microfinance and the conduct of CMF research studies and I eagerly look forward to further experiences in developmental research. But for now it's back to college!


Popular Posts

Vocationalisation of education in India: Current Scenario, Key Challenges and New directions

“Every handicraft has to be taught not merely mechanically as is done today, but scientifically. This is to say, the child should learn the why and wherefore of every process.” - Gandhi’s Philosophy of Education

The greatest challenge in Indian education system today is to provide skill based education to the youth. This is exacerbated by a mismatch in demand and supply for the skilled workforce. The penetration of vocational education and training remains poor not only in rural areas, but also in urban regions where there is a higher installed capacity to impart the same. This post is an attempt to make the readers understand the need of vocational education in India. Also, this is an attempt to summarise a few recommendations on the same. 
A recent survey (61st round) conducted by the NSSO found that:

1. The percentage of population that completed primary education was 70%, but less than 10% went on to complete a graduation course and above. Almost 97% of individuals in the age bracket…

Rockstar of Financial Inclusion: Business Correspondent Model of India

About Author:  Jatinder Handoo is a social business enthusiast and a branchless banking practitioner. Currently works at FINO PayTech Ltd and is based out of Mumbai. He is reachable at
India is a hot bed of financial exclusion. A country which houses nearly 16% of the global population  has more than 65% of its people outside the formal financial system (Global Findex 2012). The Indian banking system has adopted multiple approaches to make universal financial inclusion a reality right from early days Indian post-independence banking system. Be it bank nationalization in 1969 or formation of Regional Rural Banks. Formation of NABARD or fostering microfinance through Bank-SHG linkage programme in early 90’s. A shimmering ray hope was rekindled with the growth of JLG based microfinance, however later studies made it clear that the model is credit led, concentrated predominately in the southern region of India thus could not be seen as painting complete financial…

A Platform for Knowledge - Enabling people to learn ..

I received a rather interesting link/website via my email today. The link read as MR University and all I could think of was, "Ok, this must be another website portal of some university or college". Well, on clicking the link and looking through the contents of the site, I was pleasantly surprised. The site is an online education portal or platform that allows users or teachers to upload short videos on topics or lessons they wish to impart. First topic that I come across is Development Economics.
The intent of the website is eloquently put out by the two economists, Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok in the intro video. What started as a blog focusing on economics and its various implications in understanding why things are the way they are around us, has now an interesting addition. A video portal titled MRUniversity or Marginal Revolution University that focuses on online education with subjects pertaining to economics. It brought back to my mind,…