Name: Komal AgarwalBusiness: GRASSroot Solutions,financial education for marginalized social groupsIndustry: Social Enterprise, Coaching & ConsultingLocation: Mumbai, IndiaReason for starting: I have been working in the financial sector for over 4 years now. In my opinion, inclusive growth cannot happen without financial inclusion. Financial inclusion is critical to promote equitable economic growth. Like most developing countries, India has a long way to go to ensure financial inclusion. A large part of the country in underbanked with about half of the country’s population not having access to bank accounts and three fourths not covered by any form of insurance. I realized the gap and felt the need to address it and floated my own NGO named GRASSroot Solutions.
GRASSroot Solutions is dedicated to facilitating financial inclusion through provision of two essentials: literacy and access. The organization focuses on the financially excluded sections in India (marginal farmers & landless labor, migrants, urban slum dwellers, self-employed, unorganized industry, women and old people) to create awareness and educate masses about management of money, importance of savings, advantages of saving with banks, other facilities provided by banks & benefits of borrowing from banks by conducting workshops with the involvement of local government officials and other prominent members of the local community. Additionally, we liaise with business correspondents connecting the masses with formal financial system.
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How do you define success? I believe that success is about gathering courage, putting all the hard work for the cause you believe in and acting on your ideas. It, in my opinion, has nothing to do with winning or losing. GRASSroot Solutions is a humble attempt on my part to promote financial inclusion through provision of two essentials: literacy and access. Success for my NGO would be to try to create awareness and educate people about management of money, importance of savings, advantages of saving with banks, other facilities provided by banks and benefits of borrowing from banks and to ensure that each household where we conduct our financial literacy workshop has at least one bank account. We have conducted various financial literacy workshops in India as well as in SingaporeBiggest Success: After Yunus’s work on micro credit one would agree that the only way to bring about financial inclusion is by making small marginal farmers part of the formal financial system The main issue I faced was to convince various sections of society like marginal farmers, migrants and urban slum dwellers that financial literacy is important. We try to incentivize them to be a part of the workshop so that they can benefit and learn about financial planning and saving habits. Having conducted a number of workshops, with various impact measurement studies and having developed a strong network with local government officials and other prominent members of the local community we now face relatively lesser problems. And we hope with our continued hard work and determination in few years we can make this workshop a mandatory aspect of school curriculum and make every individual is in this country financially literate.What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? I quit my well paid corporate job at a leading financial institution and started working on my NGO as a full time assignment. Challenges like full time staff, lack of funds etc are to be faced. But I think the biggest challenge I have had to face is criticism and disapproval expressed over starting an organization with no money making prospect. With sacrifice, patience, determination and drive I thought I could convince people and am now mentally prepared for more challenges and confidence to address them.
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Who is your most important role model? Nelson Mandela, a champion of human rights, justice, peace and democracy, is my role model. He spent twenty seven years of his life in prison for a cause he believed in. He went on to lead South Africa’s first multiracial political elections. He has created a plethora of foundations to help promote social justice, raise awareness and prevention of AIDS/HIV to better the lives of children and young people. He exemplifies, in my opinion, all of the qualities that people strive to have, and has dedicated his life to human justice. He has inspired me and following his works, causes and sacrifices I realized that I would like to imbibe his qualities and do my bit for the society. I thereby decided to leave my well paid corporate job to do volunteering and help others, make a difference to life of others as well as mine.
Edited by The Story Exchange