Swapnali Deshmukh is pursuing optometry doing her internship program at Laxmi College of Optometry, Panvel. What makes her journey remarkable is her struggle against the odds to pursue her education and an organization which has supported her through this.
Swapnali, the youngest of 4 sisters comes from a small village in Raigad in Maharashtra. Her father, Jagannath who is a daily wage construction worker was keen to ensure to provide her daughters the best opportunities in life. Having passed her high school with distinction, Swapnali chose to study Optometry. However paying close to Rs 2500 for the hostel fees in addition to her college fees was proving a big challenge for Swapnali. Given her situation, Laxmi College of Optometry recommended Swapnali for an education loan from Rang De.
Rang De is a non-profit organization that works to fight poverty with a variety of grassroots organizations working in sectors ranging from agriculture related farm producer companies, waste management, sanitation, education, handloom related organizations and others working with underserved communities all over India. These field partners work with the communities through the entire loan lifecycle connecting them to Rang De and its social investors. Rang De’s co-founder Ramakrishna NK, an Ashoka Fellow said “The motivation to start Rang De (in 2008), which is India’s first peer-peer lending platform came from the desire to reduce the high interest rates that the poor and underprivileged have to pay to traditional microfinance institutions.” Smita Ram, the other co-founder adds, “We give preference to first-time borrowers as we want to reach out to more people and lift them out of poverty.” After 7 years of existence, Rang De has facilitated over Rs 30 crore ($ 5.1 million) of social investments with repayment rates of 99.8% through its 8000+ social investors. Most of its borrowers (94%) are women.
Swapnali’s loan (at less than 5% p.a. flat) was funded by over 50 social investors. Laxmi also topped the final year of her college and recently presented a paper on Contact Lenses at an international conference in Chennai, plans to repay the loan after finishing her degree. Once the social investors are repaid the money, they can withdraw the money or choose to reinvest it to other borrowers as well.
The Logical Indian Community admires the work of Rang De to deepen financial inclusion and fight poverty and believes that we need many more such institutions.