Smita Ram, CEO of Rang De, advises young girl students to use disruptive technology to build a career in banking and financial services affordable and inclusive:
Rang De is India’s peer to peer lending platform that enables individuals to invest in entrepreneurs from low-income households across India and create sustainable livelihoods. Rang De has a radical, uncompromising vision of ending poverty by sustainably leveraging cutting-edge technology to expand access to credit. It has worked across 18 different states and provided customized loans to borrowers from 9 different sectors. In 2017, the peer-to-peer lending space was regulated by RBI and to comply Rang De has transitioned into an NBFC P2P.
Smita Ram co-founded Rang De in 2008. Earlier, she was finance & administrative officer at Oxfordshire County Council and special educator & social worker at FAME India. She has done ‘Entrepreneurship for Women’ from Indian School of Business, master’s degree in social work from School of Social Work, and Bachelor of Arts from Christ University.
Let Systemic Changes Happen
As per ILO’s recent report, only 19 women out of every 100 are part of the workforce in India. This data indicates the huge gap that exists in women who can be part of the workforce but who aren’t. This should be a huge concern for all. Various factors contribute to this gap but what needs to be addressed are the systemic changes that will enable women to play an active part. These systemic changes need to happen at different levels.
Smita recommends: “At the societal and community, level it really goes back to treating women as equals and ensuring that their upbringing instills confidence to pursue their dreams despite the diverse roles women play. At the level of the employer, it is about ensuring that not just policies are women-friendly, but the organization is culturally oriented towards treating women with respect and as equals.”
Women Friendly Policies
Women across the board, rural or urban, face more or less the same challenges. The degree or extent of the challenges may vary. The challenges that exist in rural India are around societal mindsets, conditioning of women and gender-based discrimination – these are not unique from their urban counterparts. Problems around patriarchy exist in both scenarios. Of course, the government can ensure there are women friendly policies that ensure education and employment for all women.
Smita explains: “We have been witnessing small changes across all levels. But it is not enough and not fast enough. There are still fewer women in leadership and fewer women in boardrooms, which is an indicator of the underlying problem. I expect from regulatory and government authorities to facilitate creation of products and services that take into account contexts in which women live and work.”
Do Social Investing
Rang De is a peer-to-peer lending platform and over 80% of its investees are women. The same is not true from an investor perspective. Its focus is also on growing a community of social investors. Over 15,000 individuals from 26 countries have participated as social investors through Rang De. In its non-profit model, Rang De was able to raise and disburse over Rs800 million as social investments. Over 93% of its borrowers were women and more than 650 different livelihood activities were supported through Rang De.
Smita strongly believes that social investing has a unique proposition. It humanizes your investment – as you realize you are investing in some of the most hardworking people in India. She still sees very few women becoming social investors and that needs to change.
Rang De has always had the interest of its community and customers at the heart of its work. It has a unique model of working with partner organizations and building support systems for borrowers which ensures high repayment rates of up to 95% and lowers the risk taken by lenders.
BFSI A Hot Sector, Plans
Rang De leverages its internet-based platform to raise funds from social investors and channels it to individuals with a low or no credit score at subsidized interest rates. In parallelly, it and its partners work to educate marginalized communities about digital finance, financial management, and economic self-reliance. Smita has a very important futuristic message on success for the young girl students who want to make a career in the BFSI sector. For Smita the mantra for success for the young girl students in this space is to use disruptive technology to make banking and financial services affordable and inclusive. She advocates: “With advancement in technology, BFSI is definitely a hot sector. There is a lot of disintermediation happening because of technology in banking and financial spaces. A career in this space is definitely worth pursuing.”
With its mission to expand access to low-cost credit and help overcome poverty in India, Rang De’s focus this financial year has been on value chain financing and ensuring that women who work in the agri, dairy and fisheries sectors get timely and affordable access to credit. Smita adds: “Financial literacy and making it relevant to everyday life of a woman is very critical to a woman’s financial independence.”