Ratna Chakraborty, 29, first saw and heard about Bangladeshi Nobel peace prize winner Muhammad Yunus on her television set on Friday. Little did she know that Yunus and his Grameen model had silently changed her life in the last six months. Inspired by Grameen, Subhankar Chakraborty, an economics graduate, set up Arohan, a non-banking finance company, from where Ratna obtained a soft loan.
Arohan has taken micro-credit to 5,000 women in slums in and around the city.
Ratna and four other women in the neighbourhood formed a group and agreed to repay the entire loan to Arohan in 50 weeks flat at Rs 116 a week. The condition — in case of default by any one member of the group, the rest of the group would pay up. "I earn my livelihood by embroidering silk kurtas and sarees for big retail stores in the city. While the retail outlets supplied the material, I did not have enough money to buy threads. With the loan, I was able to stock up thread and cater to large orders during the puja and Diwali season", Ratna told HT.
Arohan's uniqueness lies in the fact that it has only women clients.
"We targeted slums since we were sure that poorer sections of society are the biggest market for micro-credit. We had spoken to officials from Yunus's Grameen project and decided to adapt their economic model. The only difference is that while Grameen's debt recovery system depends on a conglomeration of groups, we have to depend on a small number of groups in the slums," Chakraborty told the Hindustan Times. He further added, "Like Grameen, we have a collection system on a fixed day and time of the week."