by Akash Rungta,
As a first-year b-school student, I have done numerous projects and case studies. Never did I think that during my two-year course I will have the opportunity of working with an organization which faces and solves such cases as a regular affair. It was my privilege that my college sent me to this outstanding NGO in Ahmedabad named Saath. Saath is not just an NGO, it’s a family. It is the perfect example of how interpersonal relationships and corporate professionalism can co-exist.
My month-long journey at Saath began with visits to various program centers. I was befuddled to see their scale of operations. What stood out for me was the Urmila home manager program. I never expected that a social organization’s activities could be so well organized. They level of detailing that goes into every job they do and the SOPs they follow are no less than a corporate. The theories that are taught to management students like us are actually used and applied in practice by these women home managers. Meeting Devu Ben, the COO of the Urmila Home Manager Program was an absolute pleasure. The kind of hectic work schedule she handles at this age is phenomenal. The next day we attended the Women’s Day celebrations by Saath. The women attending this event were making posters on “I am beautiful because……….”. It was a treat to witness their creativity and thoughts being penned down on the canvas.
After an extremely colorful and vibrant orientation, I finally visited Saath Savings & Credit Cooperative Society Ltd. (SSCCSL). This is the microfinance wing of Saath and the same was allotted to me on the basis of my interests and educational background. SSCCSL has a loan book of around 16 crores and savings of more than 15 crores. Unlike other commercial financial institutions who focus solely on giving out loans and make profits, SSCCSL has a unique way of functioning. For any member to avail a loan, it is mandatory for that member to save first. This is done to develop a habit of savings among the community. Hence, this is a holistic approach to lending. On my very first day at office, I was very warmly greeted and welcomed by my mentor Vishakha. I really liked the fact that my mentor asked me the reason behind me choosing this project and my prior knowledge about microfinance. It clearly shows that they really respect the time and efforts on their interns.
Vishakha introduced me to the entire team and told me about the people I could get help from. She made sure that all the resources are available for me to efficiently do my work. I also happened to meet Madhuben, the oldest working officer at Saath. Madhuben has received only primary education, but her knowledge about microfinance is unparalleled. The day I met her happened to be their AGM and it was a great learning experience to see her giving a presentation to the team and discussing charts and trends with her field officers. She has a questioning attitude which enables her to get to the core of any problem. She helped in deciding the scope of my internship. She told me that there is an increasing demand for agricultural loans in Oad and Bareja and it would be of great help if I could design some savings and loan products.
I visited the two villages- Oad and bareja. I must really thank Renison and Deepti without whom I would not have been able to do the primary research. Renison is the IT head at the cooperative and he provided me with a lot of perspectives which I could not have thought of by myself. Deepti, just 22 years old, heads the operations at Oad. Both Renison and Deepti taught me a lot about customer relationship management. Deepti knows all the details about every client she has. Not only does she know about basic information, she also knows the household affairs and the problems of all her clients. Generally, people try to avoid officers who come to ask for repayments and installments. However, I was shocked to see that people themselves call Deepti to pay their installments. According to Deepti and Rension, the key reason behind this is the kind of relationship they have maintained with their clients. They try to be a part of their family affairs and provide advice and help whenever they are in the need of it.
Above all, the warmth that the people of Saath showed me cannot be expressed in words. Every day, someone or the other would carry extra lunch for me. I got to relish on homemade Gujarati delicacies because of the extremely caring team at Saath Cooperative. The journey has finally ended and it feels as if I am leaving behind a family here. I would like to thank the following people for their constant support – Divyang Sir, Aakash Bhai, Mahesh Bhai, Ganpat Bhai, Nishita, Arpita, Dikshita, Rukmani Maasi, Hardik Bhai, Praveen Bhai, Abeda Ben and the entire team at Saath for making me feel at home.