A year ago, Sakhi Retail (the retail arm of Solapur-based microfinance organization Sakhi Samudaya Kosh) gave us the wings to fly by deciding to believe in the still-nascent Milaap. We partnered with Sakhi Retail in our pilot endeavor to give loans of either Rs 10000 or Rs 15000 to ten rural Maharashtra women entrepreneurs. These women, who are called Sakhis, sold useful products such as smokeless cooking stoves, water filters and solar lamps to their equally underprivileged fellow villagers in an effort to increase their families’ income. Despite their best efforts, they were struggling to make ends meet, making extremely meager profits in the range of Rs 500 to Rs 1000 per month. Also, they found that at the restrictive rates of 24%, loans were out of the question, as was selling their family land. With no direction to go, they turned to Sakhi Retail, who introduced them to the Milaap system.
A year later, these women are on track to clearing their balances with 100% loan repayment so far. In addition, using the total amount of Rs 1.07 lakh that was deployed by Milaap, these women have managed to generate a turnover of Rs 4.133 lakh, which is an astounding increase of 3.86 times in their income. Most of them have repeatedly reinvested the money obtained from the sales of the products that were bought with their Rs 10k or Rs 15k. Milaap offers these loans to the Sakhis at an interest rate of 12%, which is half the interest rate offered by Osmanabad banks.
The graph above shows the loan amount (blue) and turnover amount (purple) in thousands of rupees for each Sakhi.
The spirit of an entrepreneur: Osmanabad edition
One particular story that we’d like to highlight is that of Shaila Patil, who hails from Paranda in the Osmanabad district. Shaila, who lives with her husband and two children, was working with Sakhi Retail for 4 long years, toiling for more than 25 hours a week selling Sakhi Retail's water purifiers, LED lanterns and smokeless cooking stoves. However, despite placing orders once or twice a month for Rs 10000 worth of products each time, she was adding only Rs 1000 to her family’s income. Deciding that the situation had been horrible for enough time, she took a one-year loan with us last July for Rs 15000, promising to add new products to her retail portfolio as well as expand her business by improving infrastructure, storage, etc.
In a true testament to innate entrepreneurial ability, Shaila has fulfilled her promise, and much more. Over the course of one year, she has set up a permanent retail store and has managed to turn her initial loan of Rs 15k into Rs 77k in sales income.Shaila Patil selling Sakhi Retail products at her very own store
The learning curve ï»¿ï»¿ï»¿
For us, this past year has been a litmus test of whether the Milaap model is as sustainable and efficient in practice as we had envisioned it to be. However, there are also some important lessons that we learnt through the Sakhi story. For example, when we loaned out the money to these Sakhis, we didn't factor in the fact that some of these women are just inherently better saleswomen than the others.
However, there are many positive points to be picked up from the Sakhi story as well. The stories of these Sakhis, who have shown remarkable entrepreneurial abilities, are heartening to us for many, many reasons, but one of the main ones is because it shows us that Milaap is on the right track.
We couldn't have done any of this without the support of our lenders, fans, and everyone else in the Milaap community. We thank you all heartily!