VSSM, Mittal Patel
Human Centred Service Design

Social Innovation Lesson for Banks from an NGO in Gujarat

Innova Cercado is part of a fast-growing chain of forty-nine low cost, high-quality private schools in Peru called Innova Schools. The world pioneer design firm IDEO has rethought the full curriculum of the school and the entire system of schooling.

The objective is to offer scalable international quality education at an affordable price. The author David Rowan of the book Non-Bullshit Innovation writes, at $130 it’s a profitable business. It is delivering also. Innova pupils are scoring double the national average.

Innova School Peru
Credit IDEO.com

This school network is owned by Intercorp Conglomerate. The question was why this US $ 8 bn in revenue conglomerate what to run a school chain. The answer was the failure of the Government. The group is planning many social initiatives like healthcare, where Govt has failed.

“Businesses cannot be successful when the society around them fails.”

The purpose matters more than anything else. In his book ‘Looptail’, the author Bruce Poon Tip of G Adventures writes;

“…. Social enterprise to me is about solving standard business problems with solutions that address social issues like environmental sustainability and economic inequality.

That idea started a non-profit world, but more and more, you see it creeping into the for-profit world because the consumer is demanding it.

The customer doesn’t want to purchase something randomly; they want to know where that product is coming from and to identify with that brand.

They want to know why they should purchase it and why they should purchase it from you. They want to understand what that brand and the people behind it stand for.”

Yes, where the Govt has failed is the area for the business houses and NGOs to step in. Today I am writing about one such NGO which has recently linked social change with its lending terms.


This is a Gujarat based NGO Vicharata Samuday Samarthan Manch (VSSM), working to empower the  Nomadic and De-Notified Tribes (NT-DNTs) communities while striving to create an inclusive society as well as government policies for these extremely marginalized sections of our society.

VSSM, through its various initiatives endeavours to enable the NT-DNTs to get access to citizenry rights, education, health facilities, housing and livelihood support. It has taken up the challenge to bring about a holistic change in the lives of  NT-DNTs by questioning stereotypes both at the grassroots as well as policy levels.

Today, the VSSM has 30 field officers who tirelessly work to get these nomadic tribes to access to government schemes, identification cards, ration cards, housing, and education.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. ” Margaret Mead

Mittal Patel

The driving force behind the NGO is its young and energetic Mittal Patel. She hails from Sankhalpur village in Mehsana district of Gujarat, is the daughter of farmers.

With the desire to become an IAS officer, she went to Ahmedabad, and in the meantime, enrolled herself for a journalism course in Gujarat Vidyapeeth. This was the turning point in her life as she got the opportunity for a two-month fellowship in Charkha Foundation.

During her fellowship with Charkha Foundation, she got an opportunity to go to various remote areas in Gujarat. She once met the tribal communities that grew sugarcanes for a living and realised that they led a difficult life. Their names were not in the government records, and thus, they could not avail the benefits of any schemes.

Mittal was inspired to do something for these tribes, and for that, she also decided to quit her job. Thereafter, she spent her next two years with them and understood their grievances closely. She came to know that the women were also sexually abused, and the children had no choice but to live the life carved out for them.

VSSM, Mittal Patel
Mittal Patel with the Comunity Members, Photo Credit Facebook.

I have been knowing about VSSM for a few years now. What triggered today’s post is their recently launched innovative lending style.

They offer microloans for a better livelihood for the community. The following conditions attached to avail loan could be an eye-opener for the banks and microfinance companies to drive desirable social change from the borrower.

VSSM Loan Scheme – Innovative Conditions

All lenders usually attach many financial discipline conditions when they offer loans to the borrowers. This is true for huge corporate loans and small personal loans.

But when an NGO is working on a mission of social change, they can offer food for thought for all lenders.

VSSM has attached the following 5 conditions for anyone who wishes to avail loan from them. This has nothing to do about the financial discipline, but the aim is the desirable social change.

Those who wish to avail loans have to fulfill the following 5 conditions:

  • Compulsory Medical Test

Cancer can be prevented by timely test and treatment. Cervical and Breast cancer is very common in women. Those who wish to avail loan has to get these two tests of the wife of the borrower and if the borrower is a woman, of the self.

The test would be conducted free of cost. This condition met with the most resistance. You can realise how important the condition is considering the widespread of cancer.

  • Tree Plantation

The borrower must plant 2 trees. The loan officer would visit the borrower to see the plantation of the tree. When the borrower wants the loan next time, the loan officer would check the growth of previously plated frees and 2 more trees need to be planted.

  • Giving Up Vices

The borrower has to give up all vices like consumption of tobacco, drugs, smoking, alcohol.  One can imagine the use of such products among these tribes. If anyone found to be violating this condition, they would be penalized.

  • Compulsory Signature

The borrower must sign the loan documents. Thumb impression won’t do. This will make them learn writing.

In a community where the education level is abysmally low, this is a very important condition.

  • Pay Instalment By Visiting Bank

The borrower must visit the bank to repay the loan installments.  NGO would not send any representative to the borrower place. This will enable them to learn basic banking.

All the 5 conditions are socially relevant and can be instrumental for change of behaviour of the borrowers for better.

One NGO in Gujarat working for Nomadic tribes can be a change driver by their innovative loan scheme. What can Indian banking and microfinance institutions do to change the borrowers’ behaviour is mind-boggling.

What are the social changes necessary which banks shall incorporate as a part of the loan sanction?

  • Preventive Cancer and Other Health Tests (In the case of a business borrower; For entrepreneurs and staff members) (Health)
  • Suggested course (Online/Offline) to be completed within the stipulated time (Learning)
  • Ethical Business Conduct and No  Tax Evasion (Moral)
  • Borrower defined CSR project to be completed (Social)

Ther are several such conditions which can be considered based on the borrowers’ profile and social need.

When the Govt fails, the private sector and NGOs have to step in.   Intercrop of Peru and Mittal Patel at VSSM of Gujarat are the shining examples of what is possible.

On International Women’s Day, the President conferred the prestigious Nari Shakti Puraskars to Mittal Patel along with other 29 eminent women for the year 2017.

Mittal Patel - President Award
Photo Credit Facebook.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

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