“Our goal is to be a comprehensive financial-service provider to the low-income population,” says Arun Padmanabhan.
“Mumbai is probably the most economically active region in the world,” he says. “You have this massive population who are into millions and millions of small businesses.” But the traditional microfinance model of group lending puts people who need larger loans at a significant disadvantage, particularly those who have demands for higher amounts of money to expand their businesses faster and who can service the loans promptly, he says.
Padmanabhan had been working as a corporate lawyer for ICICI, a major Indian bank, and in his spare time, as a volunteer, helping flood victims after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, when, he says, he felt he needed to improve the balance in his life. Combining his banking experience with his interest in helping the disadvantaged, he puzzled how to solve one of the developing world’s biggest challenges: How do you create the next billion consumers?
The answer was obvious to Padmanabhan: “by helping families that are disadvantaged economically and socially to move ahead.”
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