Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The projects Im working on right now

I realized that I haven't really been writing anything about the work Im actually doing day to day yet. In the beginning I wanted to, but it was too slow to really remark on anything interesting that was happening in the office. Things have changed since then!! Here are a couple of the major projects I'm working on

Micro Life Insurance
The Government of India has a law that that insurance companies in India have to dedicate 18% of its business to the country's "prioroty" (or economically marginalized) sector. I think its a great law, but i dont know much about its repercussions nationally. Because of this law, major Indian companies that do insurance often partner with small organizations based in rural areas to gain access to bigger markets which they cant get on their own. Mann Deshi is definitely one of the premier microfinance institutions in the state so companies are interested in partnerships with us. On our end, life insurance is another product that we can offer to our clients who otherwise wouldn't have access. Since it's not philanthropy on their part, but an actual requirement they must fill-it creates some interesting dynamics in the negotiations process, where we have more bargaining power than one would initially assume given our size

Right now we are working with a major Indian company to be able to offer various life insurance products to the bank's clients for when they take out a loan. They have the opportunity to choose the best plan. in the case of death, the bank is insured as well. Their reimbursement will go towards paying off their loan and the rest to the family of the deceased. Ive been working closely on this partnership and been responsible for our org's application to be a micro insurance agent of this company--which basically means we are the intermediary between the client and the insurance company and they will pay their monthly premiums through us.

By law, Insurance companies can't offer both life and general insurance. So we are working to find another partner that can offer our clients things like auto and agro-weather insurance.

Micro Pension
We've been partering with another company to provide a pension product to our clients. This partnership is already in place and I am working internally to help the bank devise a more efficient system to manage all of the different pension payment types (i.e. people who come to the bank to pay each month's installment versus those who live far away and come to give a lump sum for the year or so). Currently, the bank isnt using any sort of software and most of the loan clerks don't really know much about computers so there has to be a management process in place to ensure that all of the money gets sent to their pension accounts in a timely manner.

Model Village
This is the most interesting partnership I am working on. Basically, this really rich guy who is interested in doing development projects through the I-bank he currently owns, wants to work with us to design a "model village." I guess its some sort of Jeff Sachs thing, I dont know too much about it. But the basic idea is that we choose a general geographic location and various NGOs--microfinance, green, social, etc. work in accordance to create a holistic sort of development in the village. The idea hinges on each of these issues (microfinance, green, social work) work better when they are interdependent with eachother. Anyway, we would be the microfinance expert who would come in. Its a great opportunity for us to expand our bank operations without dealing with all the regulatory issues of setting up a new branch. They would give us 1 crore (10 million Rs) to lend over the course of a year and everything would be done under their name. As the microfinance experts, we would be running the branch activities and gaining the new clients as equity holders for our bank. The revenue from interest paid back on the loans would be split between us somehow (likely as a form of commision for us), and they really want to split the costs 50/50 (we would rather not!). Anyway, Ive been tasked with coming up with the projections to assess the profitability for us in the project. Assuming different sort of scenarios in how the partnership would work. It's a lot of number crunching, but interesting nonetheless. Ive also been a part of the negotiations which has been fascinating.

In our last meeting he brought up the idea of working with engineering companies on setting up biomass plants to provide electricty to rural areas that can then be used to sell "carbon credit" on the international market. Assuming those discussions go anywhere, expect a future blog entry about "carbon credit!"

Ok, this is really done now.

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