After arriving in Mumbai and getting used to the city for one day, I was ready to go to Swadhaar FinAccess and meet with its CEO, Preeti Telang, to understand how they operate in the slums of India, specifically in Mumbai, and help improve financial literacy there.
The first thing to understand was the budgeting process in which Swadhaar is involved right now and to figure out how would I be helping them develop the needed tools to measure Swadhaar’s impact on behavioral changes in clients’ lives and through the recently-developed Financial Information and Literacy Center (FILC).
I was especially excited about studying the FILC. As its name indicates, a FILC is a center where everyone from the community can go for free guidance on financial issues, even if they’re not Swadhaar clients or interested in Swadhaar products. The program is working very well now, and for the next stage of its development, Swadhaar is planning to create a membership to help clients create and develop their businesses as well as improving their financial capabilities.
My next step was to study the training materials and learn how are they’re being implemented in the field. Deep in my heart, I believe that meeting clients directly and observing operations in the field is the only way to be close to the institution and to understand it better. So, I prepared to see how the program worked for myself.
For my first field visit, I went to Borivali‘s branch and visited one of the FILC groups on their last training session, which covered advanced formal financial products. It was really interesting to see how something as small as teaching them how to correctly spend savings, the importance of having insurance, or how to calculate credit interest rates are really important and critical to those women’s lives. With the tools to properly administrate their family income, they can avoid dramatic consequences such as losing all their savings in a pyramid scheme, getting debt when a health problem appears or getting more credit than they can actually repay.
Now that I had checked the first field visit of my list of things to do and see while in the ambassadors program, it was time to get into the computer and work on those tools!