Around 45 per cent of the population in India lacks access to formal finance. Microfinance is an established route of providing credit to the very smallest businesses.
Equitas specialises in providing loans to small entrepreneurs. Based in Chennai, southern India, it lends money to three million microfinance customers across 12 Indian states. Its customers are primarily women who run small businesses, where a loan will help them to improve their business and add to their income.
The company prides itself on lending responsibly. Before loans are made, borrowers attend three days of training sessions. At these sessions they learn more about Equitas, about who qualifies for a loan, and how the loan is to be used.
Once loans have been made, Equitas’ support for its customers continues. It recognises that giving a loan on its own is not enough and that its customers need broader support. The company offers skills training and health services, supports low-income households with food and grocery expenses, and provides affordable education for its customers’ children.
"Equitas is not just about lending; it’s about improving the quality of our clients’ lives. We have designed an ecosystem which can address the spectrum of their needs."
How CDC's investment supports Equitas
Since 2013, CDC has invested US$22 million in Equitas. The investment has helped the company to grow. The number of customers supported by Equitas has grown to over three million today and it now operates almost 500 branches across India.
"CDC, by nature, is a long-term investor which reallylooks into the value that it can add in the long term to a country’s economy… CDC has been really supportive of us."
How Equitas creates jobs
Kala lives in one of Chennai’s poorer neighbourhoods. Here, unemployment among women is high. She runs a tailoring business with her husband.
Like millions of Indians, Kala doesn’t have a bank account. She found it hard to borrow money when she wanted to buy a sewing machine and start a business. Equitas loaned Kala the money she needed.
Kala is now close to repaying her first loan of 10,500 rupees (approx. US$160). She has used the extra money she has earned from her business to pay for household expenses, healthcare costs, and her children’s education.
"I had an idea to do business, but I did not have the money. Then I heard that we could get a loan. We can use the money we now earn from our business for our children’s studies, for taking care of us if we fall ill, and to buy things for our home."
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