This post by Mudita Tiwari and Deepti KC.
In Dharavi, Mumbai, the largest urban slum in Asia, groups of women make papad, crispy lentil dough wafers, for Lijjat Papad Company, one of the world’s largest papad retailers. Lijjat requires any woman who works for the enterprise to first open a savings account, and to encourage savings, the company deposits a small proportion of the women’s earnings (2 rupees of every 32 rupees earned) directly into the savings accounts, adding a bonus during the Diwali festival . . . Read More
I recently attended the launch event for Bill Easterly’s latest book, The Tyranny of Experts. His thesis is that international development policies have been determined by a group of so-called experts, who both ignore the rights of the poor and systemically violate those rights. After his presentation, Professor Easterly urged the audience to start more discussions that highlight a rights-based development agenda.
This call to action prompted me to think about how the provision of financial services can advance the rights of the poor, and reminded me of my first-hand experience with Slum Dwellers International (SDI) in Uganda. SDI is a grassroots organization of the urban poor that started in India in 1996 but now works in 33 countries . . . Read More
How would you describe a savings account where your money is occasionally stolen, eaten by mice, or washed away by floods? Merchants in Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia, describe it as “safe.”
That’s what Deepti KC and Mudita Tiwari found when they interviewed sellers, suppliers and buyers in Dharavi, home to 5,000 informal businesses that create goods worth more than 600 million dollars a year, in the heart of Mumbai.
Far from being poor peddlers of trinkets, the sellers of Dharavi—particularly those who make relatively expensive leather goods—routinely move thousands of dollars in a single day. They have sophisticated financial lives, often including formal bank accounts, and many have smart phones. KC and Tiwari—like many researchers studying financial inclusion in the developing world—posit that increasing take up of digital transactions “is essential to achieving inclusive financial growth in India” . . . Read More
In his recently published paper, “Accounting for the Poor,” MIT Economist Robert Townsend uses an impressive dataset to make the case for “accounting” for the economic contributions of the poor. Most interesting to me is how he analyzes this data to show the lifecycle and consumption needs of both the rural and urban poor – and shows that urban and rural lives are more intertwined than I had assumed . . . Read More