Sandiip Saravanan is a Senior Officer, New Business at Singapore Economic Development Board. He is also one of Milaap's lenders. We got together with him and asked him some questions. Here's what he said:
How did you get to hear about Milaap?
Anoj and Sourabh are close friends from NUS and I was aware of the idea for Milaap from its early days.
Why do you lend on Milaap?
I lend because I believe in the entrepreneurial ability of the underprivileged, which I've witnessed first-hand. I lend because I believe that we need better alternatives to charity to help this population segment. I lend because I believe in the vision of the founding team.
Is there any particular sector on Milaap you regularly lend to? If yes, why?
Not really, I do not have a specific sector focus.
Who/what inspired you to do what you do now?
The motivation to work at SEDB was the attractive opportunity to contribute directly to Singapore's economic growth by working closely with global business leaders. My first inspiration to look at the social sector space was C.K. Prahlad's - Fortune @ the BoP, which highlighted opportunities to achieve social goals without sacrificing economic benefits. Since then, several work related interactions with leaders in this space such as Ashoka, Grameen, etc have been continuous sources of inspiration.
If you were to change it, what would you do instead? Why?
I am currently working on positioning Singapore as an attractive location for emerging market businesses. It is an area of work which I find deeply interesting. One possible opportunity I would like to explore further would be to work closer with one of the promising hybrid social enterprises in this space on a committed part-time basis.
Any question for us?
Q: Any ideas to expand into micro-insurance, micro-savings and related products?
A: At the moment, no. Maybe in the future.
Any thoughts or interesting thing you would like to share with us and our supporters?
Perhaps a suggestion: Microfinance sector has gotten a lot of flak recently which might deter potential new loaners. Space devoted on your homepage to allay such visitor concerns might help. Also, facts and data on how much additional income/profits were generated by the loan recipients would add further credibility to the fact that Milaap is actually helping make a difference in the borrower's lives and is not exploitative.
Thank you Sandiip!