“Women in India, particularly in rural areas, still do not have adequate access to credit. This has limited their ability to sustain their businesses and contribute to their economic development,” said ADB Investment Specialist for Private Sector Operations Apurva Kumar. “ADB’s financing to Annapurna has supported it to extend its footprint in lagging states and remote areas, so as to help enhance women and micro and small enterprises’ financial ability.”
Annapurna’s Director Dibyajyoti Pattnaik noted that: "Annapurna Finance from its inception has been working with an aim of mainstreaming women and reducing gender disparities in society. Annapurna is making efforts to provide micro credit solutions to rural Indian women for their financial sustainability.”
In the last two years since ADB’s equity investment from April 2019 to March 2021, Annapurna has disbursed over $870 million of loans to women customers. During the same period, the number of customers serviced by Annapurna, who are primarily women, increased by more than 350,000 to nearly 1.9 million. Additionally, Annapurna’s solid credit methodology also has a strong social focus, including the provision of training on financial literacy and women’s empowerment.
With Annapurna’s outreach, more women living in the rural areas have started or expanded their small businesses and the number of positively affected households have increased noticeably.
Kallupuri Mangama, a customer of Gunupur branch of Annapurna Finance, has a personal story which represents the journey of many rural women in India who have taken a step towards income generation. From a family of four members, including her parents and one sister, Mangama initially had no idea of the hardships that are often encountered in life. She lost her father when she was 25, which exposed her family not only to mental trauma but also to financial uncertainty, as her father was the family’s only income earner. This tragedy compelled Mangama to take control of the situation by taking up small stitching assignments from her neighborhood.
Initially Mangama only had basic stitching skills, so she attended a few classes locally to improve her abilities and to satisfy her customers. She then came to Annapurna for a loan to buy a tailoring machine. In the last three years, through diligent work, she has turned her new livelihood into a viable one for her family. So far she has taken two loans from Annapurna and invested the funds solely in her business. Her business experienced a boom as her customer demand increased.
At present, depending on the order volume, Mangama manages to earn a steady income of 10,000-12,000 Indian rupees a month. This amount is enough to meet her household expenses and the cost of educating her younger sister. She also constructed a house for her family.
In addition to assisting rural women in enhancing their financial capability, Annapurna also focuses on the women in their team.
“We pledge to make Annapurna a gender proactive organization in a true sense through regular development and review of policies, introduction of new schemes to address the gender needs of our customers and employees both,” said Mr. Pattnaik.”
There are now 81 women in senior or middle management at Annapurna as of March 2020, compared to 18 in 2018. Annapurna has showcased its gender inclusive workplace by hiring qualified women staff from training institutes through participation in campus interviews and job fairs. As a result, the retention rate of women employees has increased from just 14% in 2008 to 72% in 2020.
Annapurna is expected to further expand its portfolio and lending presence into unserved and underserved geographical regions of India—ensuring more women benefit from its strong collaboration with ADB.