Anita Khumbar is a testament to the power of financial education. A client of Mann Deshi Mahila Bank in Mhaswad, India – a town seven hours east by car from Mumbai – her training has encouraged her to leverage many of the bank’s products to improve her family’s livelihood and security and reduce their risk and vulnerability.
Two years ago Accion partnered with Mann Deshi in a pilot ‘Dialogue on Business’ program – Accion’s business-skills training curriculum. Anita signed up, and at the time of our visit was just about to embark on the first module. But by then, as a three-year client of Mann Deshi, she had already completed the bank’s financial literacy training course. That training inspired her to set up a savings plan with the bank, and to invest in the bank’s pension plan. It also encouraged her to take out small working-capital loans, offered in amounts from 10,000 to 25,000 rupees (U.S. $180- $450), to expand her family pottery business.
Anita works in the front courtyard of her house, under ashoka and neem trees that provide welcome shade in the mid-day heat. Everyone pitches in: her father-in-law softening and shaping wet lumps of clay by working them in his hands, her husband spinning pots on the wheel. The pottery offers only two simple products, small cooking pots and cooking stoves, and sells only to the neighborhood – but Anita has plans. Soon she will stage an exhibition of new designs, with the goal of increasing her orders. As for the loans, they allow her to buy firewood and clay in bulk. It is a slow route to financial security – a cooking pot sells for a modest 30 rupees (55 cents), and she can make only six or seven per day – but it appears to be a sure one.