I spent a short time at SAATH microfinance during my winter vacation from LSE. Most of my time was spent visiting field officers and the project offices of SAATH. The process of orientating myself with SAATH was a challenging and fun experience. I knew before traveling to Gujarat that SAATH was a successful model incorporating market-based solutions in assisting the poor but I had little knowledge about the innovative methods they employed in achieving their goals. I witnessed an organization silently changing the landscape of Ahmedabad through innovative means; clients of SAATH microfinance generally felt empowered about their future. I also got to participate in a staff training session held by SAATH microfinance on the theme of “Gender and Microfinance”. Unfortunately, my Gujarati wasn’t quite up to scratch after four days of living in India so I am not able to expand on exactly what was discussed!
I treated my SAATH experience as a way of testing ideas that I had formed while studying for my bachelors in Development Economics as well as my MSc. in Development Studies. I always found myself doubting the practical aspects of my ideas until I explored the SAATH field operations. I was particularly impressed by UMEED, a center that not only trained women and men in skills development for a minimal fee, but also placed them in jobs and followed up even after they started working
The highlight of my experience was when I traveled to the SAMVAD community video unit. This project was special because it presented a hands-on approach in addressing certain issues faced by communities in and around Ahmedabad. In essence, the unit, comprised of those who had benefited from SAATH, talked to others in the community to address a specific problem. This documentary was then shown to the community, prior to the unit and other SAATH officials initiating important discussions of the issues with the audience members. Overall, my experience with SAATH and the SAATH staff was very positive. Hence, I decided to also take a course related to Innovation at the ‘Base of the Pyramid’ upon my return to LSE. I would definitely encourage other students to explore ‘Incredible India’ through SAATH!