A Better Harvest for Indian Farmers – Just a Phone Call Away?

Tanaya Devi | April 9, 2012

A new CMF study explores the potential of a new mobile agricultural extension service to improve farming techniques.    The Indian government has willingly implemented agricultural demonstrations as a method to develop farming knowledge and techniques. It spent $60 million on agricultural extension in 2009-10 alone. However, these traditional extension techniques seem barely able to deliver, as only 5.7% of a 270 million strong farming population report access to information delivered by these extension services (59th National Sample Survey). The alarmingly

India’s New Poverty Numbers

Shardul Oza | March 22, 2012

The Planning Commission has released new poverty estimates for the country, showing that the percentage of people living below the poverty line poor fell from from 37% to 29.8% from 2004-2005 to 2009-2010.  According to the Commission, the fall is poverty in directly attributable to the success of government welfare programs such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, a government scheme that guarantees rural Indians 100 days of paid work. The announcement received widespread media coverage, with many outlets

Why Index-Based Insurance Could Work

Shardul Oza | March 19, 2012

A post by NYU researcher Jonathan Bauchet on the CGAP Microfinance Blog discusses some of the reasons behind the low takeup of microinsurance products.  Bauchet mentions results from CMF’s randomized controlled trial study of an index-based weather insurance product in rural Gujarat which show that price is a major barrier to adoption. (The studies, conducted in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, also find that trust and household liquidity constraints significantly impact takeup.) He goes on to cite the promise of index-based

The Great AP Microfinance Catharsis

This weekend was one of complete catharsis for me. The Indian microfinance sector, as is well known now, has gone through a roller coaster over the course of the last year and a half—one of emotion, accusations, and frustration. For myself, having had the privilege of working on the Access to Finance in Rural Andhra Pradesh study with colleagues at the IFMR Centre for Micro Finance (CMF), sitting over 7,000 miles away as the crisis unfolded was agonizing. Instead of

Are the RBI’s Financial Inclusion Policies too Conservative?

Shardul Oza | February 21, 2012

A recent article in The Economist discusses the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)’s record over the last ten to fifteen years. In general, the magazine takes a favourable view of the central bank’s performance, citing its success in maintaining macroeconomic stability and controlling inflation. The article mentions that some critics have lambasted the RBI for its conservative approach to regulation, which they claim, has negatively impacted growth. Having worked in the financial inclusion space for the past couple of years,

Who will Pay for Financial Literacy?

Mudita Tiwari | February 17, 2012

As we meander through the thatched mud-stained and brick houses in Uttar Pradesh, our team asks a curious group of smiling clients – “What did you learn at the training session?” or “Does it help when our team reminds you about your savings goals?”  The answer is inevitably a yes, but the “yes” comes at a cost.  Financial Literacy Education (FE) is most often a classroom based approach conducted either by the financial institutions (such as EKO, FINO), or an

A Letter From an MFI Client

Deepti KC | February 16, 2012

Dear regulators, policymakers and other stakeholders: I am a MFI client from an urban slum, and yes I have taken loans from 2-3 MFIs operating in my area. I do have a bank account, however, every time I have tried to use the banking services, I found the entire process too complicated, and I have no idea about bank Khatas or bank’s  products. In addition, I do not find their staff friendly or courteous. I remember the day when a MFI loan