New Initiative Enables Individuals Worldwide to Lend to Working Poor, Widowed Women, Families Affected by Leprosy, and Disabled Individuals

San Francisco, CA—August 15, 2012—Today Kiva announced a new initiative that enables their global community of lenders to begin funding microloans to some of India’s most geographically isolated, underserved, and socially-excluded people.  To reach these communities, Kiva is partnering with three nonprofit organizations, People’s Forum and Mahashakti Foundation in Odisha and WSDS-Initiate in Manipur. Kiva selected these nonprofits because of their holistic approach to poverty alleviation through microfinance services, livelihoods training, and social support programs. Kiva is the world’s first and largest microlending platform where 800,000 individuals around the world have funded US$340 million in loans for 840,000 borrowers in 63 countries, and now India.

“There is a shared desire within India and around the world to support India’s working poor and socially-excluded people,” said Premal Shah, President of Kiva. “Today, for the first time, Kiva is providing individuals with a chance to fund microloans and livelihoods training in India through three deeply dedicated community-based nonprofits.”

Kiva’s lending community in India and worldwide has consistently shown interest in supporting people in India. More than 800 Kiva lenders identify themselves as being from India and have lent US$ 160,000 to 29,500 borrowers outside of India. Last year alone, there were over 400,000 visits to from people in India. Many Kiva lenders form their own lending teams around shared interests and 15 of Kiva’s lending teams have expressed a strong interest in India. Together they have 3,485 members who have funded more than US$ 2million toward 60,000 loans, all outside of India. This interest and energy has been met with no opportunity to support people in India, until now.

You can visit to learn about the borrowers and their businesses, and connect with someone who you would like to support with a loan of $25 or more. The loans you fund help borrowers access critical capital they need to start or expand their business and receive livelihoods skills, financial literacy training, and social support services. Historically, loans funded through Kiva have a 98% repayment rate, so the money you lend is truly a loan. 

Kiva deliberately partnered with these nonprofits because they are client-centered, community-based and focused in regions with a low concentration of microfinance services. Kiva has carefully vetted these partners to ensure that they have policies, practices and community relationships in place to assess the needs of their clients and tailor their programs toward those needs. 

Although India experienced tremendous growth in microfinance, most institutions are highly concentrated in India’s southern states and grew rapidly by only offering standardized loan products that did not reflect the distinct needs of their clients. Many investors funding microfinance institutions consider the populations that Kiva’s partners work with to be too “high-risk” and are unwilling or unable to serve the socially-excluded, or provide wrap-around services and livelihood trainings.

“As we considered which organizations to partner with we took several factors into consideration,” said Shah. “We wanted to work with nonprofits that are dedicated to supporting socially or economically excluded people in a holistic way and that are operating in areas with few other microfinance services. We found three nonprofits that meet that criteria in every way and who are truly dedicated to the people they serve. It is an honor to know that the people they work with will benefit from the kind of support that Kiva’s lenders provide.”

“When you lend to a person through one of these nonprofits, you aren’t just funding a loan for them to start or expand their business,” said Shah. “You are helping to fund a chance for them to learn the skills they need to support themselves and their families. This is especially critical in India where the vast majority of the workforce has very few, if any, opportunities for skills training.”

In addition to lending $25 or more to a person in India, visitors to can join lending teams expressing an interest in India or create a new lending team based on their interests.

More About Kiva’s Nonprofit Partners In India:
People’s Forum and Mahashakti Foundation both operate in the state of Odisha and reach populations underserved by other microfinance institutions. The districts they work in are considered to be among the poorest in the country. Mahashakti Foundation provides clients with an array of services, business training and microloan products for sustainable livelihoods, community development, fair price pharmacy services, food security,  support for farmers, and loans for water and sanitation. 

People’s Forum also operates in Odisha and, in addition to microloans, offers other services including programs for mental health, elementary education, support for survivors of human trafficking, drought mitigations and health awareness. Their financial services include financial literacy training, livelihoods training, business development and market linkages to support the success of their clients.

People’s Forum is dedicating their Kiva funded loans to expand and launch programs with some of India’s most vulnerable populations including widowed women, transgendered women, disabled individuals, and families affected by leprosy. Without Kiva’s low-cost funding, People’s Forum could not scale up these programs for these communities. Thanks to Kiva’s lenders, People’s Forum is able to launch an entirely new loan product for individual widowed women, single mothers, and unmarried women. 

Widowed women are considered a bad omen in some parts of India and are often excluded from the social and economic life of their communities. Microfinance institutions in India usually focus on married women because they are considered “less risky” to lend to and Self Help Groups hesitate to include single women. People’s Forum has always wanted to provide an individual lending product for these women but could not find any lenders willing to support them, until Kiva. Loan products for individual women will include livelihoods training and supplies for income generating activities such as weaving, petty shops, stitching, tailoring, and fast food stalls.

WSDS-Initiate is an inclusive nonprofit that works with all tribes and minority communities in Manipur, located in the remote northeast region of India. Most organizations concentrate their work in the plains regions of Manipur, WSDS is among very few organizations operating in the isolated hilly regions. Political unrest and frequent economic blockades in the area make it very difficult to provide services, resulting in Manipur having the lowest penetration of financial services in the country. 

WSDS’s board is entirely local and their board members are well respected among the communities they work with. WSDS lends to women over the age of 55, which is unusual for microlending organizations in India. WSDS also provides clients with loans to purchase solar lamps. This is especially impactful because most of the areas WSDS works in do not have electricity and economic blockades makes kerosene extremely expensive. WSDS will use Kiva funds to expand existing client programs and to pilot new loan products that other lenders will not fund.

WSDS, Mahashakti Foundation and People’s Forum are compliant with the Reserve Bank of India’s guidelines on microfinance and have put additional policies in place that demonstrate their integrity as nonprofit microfinance institutions.  Each nonprofit has a policy of not lending to clients with more than one loan outstanding and they regularly meet with other lending institutions in their area. Each organization has endorsed the SMART Campaign’s client protection principles, three of the six principles revolve around the best -practices and policies between microfinance staff and clients. 

India Poverty Background:
India has one of the world’s fastest growing economies, but wealth and opportunity do not flow equally among its population. According to the World Bank, despite slow improvements in India’s poverty levels, overall poverty remains alarmingly high. More than 32% of the overall population falls below the international poverty line of US$1.25 per day, while more than 68% live on less than US$ 2 per day. Social and economic inequalities persist among people based on class, gender, cast, and rural versus urban regions. 

Entrenched rural poverty, dependence on the informal sector for sustenance, and lack of opportunity for education and skills building in the informal sector locks women and socially-excluded populations in a poverty trap. Ninety percent of India’s workforce depends on the “informal sector” for employment, but there is little or no opportunity for skills building among informal workers and enterprises. Almost 60% of women who want work cite financing as a major constraint and lack the skills training they need to succeed. 

Media Contact:
Jason Riggs
Kiva, Communications Director