Moneylife Events
Microfinance industry: Genesis of current crisis, lessons learnt, challenges and prospects

Ramesh Arunachalam, Development Practitioner, held an exclusive session at the Moneylife Knowledge Centre on the issues facing the Indian microfinance industry and the steps that can be taken to put the industry back on track

Has the Indian microfinance industry lost its track? Is the industry at the peril of being usurped by usurious interests? What are the prospects and challenges facing this sector? Ramesh Arunachalam, Development Practitioner, spoke on all these issues at an exclusive seminar held by Moneylife Foundation at the Moneylife Knowledge Centre on 1st October.

Mr Arunachalam is unarguably the most authoritative voice on Indian microfinance.  He has over two decades of strong grass-roots and institutional experience in rural finance, MSME development, agriculture & rural livelihood systems, rural & urban development and urban poverty-alleviation across Asia, Africa, North America and Europe.

The comprehensive seminar touched upon all aspects of the microfinance industry, like the crisis in Andhra Pradesh, the challenges impacting the growth of this sector, financial inclusion and policy-level challenges. Mr Arunachalam also charted a roadmap for the industry-he elaborated on key issues that went much beyond the current crisis and spoke on the need to re-engineer the complete financial inclusion paradigm.

As usual, it was a packed session, enriched by the key takeaways that Mr Arunachalam provided.   

Mr Arunachalam has worked with national and state governments, multilateral agencies, bilateral donors, regulators and supervisors including central banks and ministries, commercial banks, and MFIs, NGOs, the private sector and other stakeholders.


Market under stress: Weekly Market Report

Nifty to move in the range of 4,800 to 5,000

Greece's struggle to implement harsher austerity measures in a bid to gain confidence of international monetary agencies for a fresh bailout package pushed aside fears of a domestic slowdown that was portrayed by Indian policymakers, resulting in the Indian stock market closing the week with a gain of 2%. However, the market shrank 12% in the September 2011 quarter, posting its worst quarterly performance since the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008.

Issues relating to the debt crisis in Europe and its impact on the world economy kept the market down on Monday. However, positive global news enabled the market to notch up gains of 3% the next day. Concerns about lower second quarter corporate earnings dragged the indices down on Wednesday. The market bounced back on Thursday on buying in auto & IT stocks. Pressure on metal stocks after the Cabinet cleared the new Mines Bill, which seeks mining companies to share profit with project-impacted people, pushed the market down on Friday.

The Sensex gained 292 points to close the week at 16,454 and the Nifty added 76 points to settle at 4,943. Economic events are likely to keep the Nifty in the range of 4,800 to 5,000.

In the sectoral space, BSE IT (up 6%) and BSE TECk (up 4%) were the top gainers, while BSE Metal (down 5%) and BSE Consumer Durables (down 4%) led the losers.

The top Sensex gainers were DLF (up 10%), Infosys, Jaiprakash Associates (up 8% each), Tata Motors (up 6%) and Reliance Industries (up 5%). The key losers were Coal India (down 9%), Sterlite Industries (down 7%), Larsen & Toubro (down 6%), Hero MotoCorp (down 5%) and Tata Steel (down 4%).

Among Nifty stocks, DLF (up 11%), Ranbaxy Laboratories (up 9%), Infosys, Jaiprakash Associates (up 8% each) and Tata Motors (up 6%) were the major gainers. The main losers were Reliance Capital (down 22%), Reliance Infrastructure (down 13%), Reliance Communications (down 9%), Sterlite Industries (down 7%) and Larsen & Toubro (down 6%).

Rising prices of essential kitchen items like potato and pulses pushed food inflation closer to the double-digit mark at 9.13% for the week ended 17th September from 8.84% in the previous week. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee termed the rise in food inflation as 'grave'.

Also, finance and revenue secretary RS Gujral raised concerns over the dip in direct tax collection growth, saying it was indicative of a 'slowdown in the economy'. The overall advance tax collections are estimated to have grown by 12% in the September quarter against the Budget target of 19%. For the top 100 companies, the growth was a modest 9.9%. Other analysts have also expressed concerns that weakening global economic environment and repeated rate hikes by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in its quest to tame the uncomfortable inflation number are having an adverse impact on the economy.

On the international front, Germany has completed its ratification of the expanded euro-zone bailout fund with both houses of the German parliament endorsing the plan designed to stop the sovereign debt crisis spreading in the 17-nation euro area. The approval paves the way to increase the size of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) to 780 billion euro from the present level of 440 billion euro.

Meanwhile, St Louis Federal Reserve president James Bullard said the Fed is ready to ease its monetary policy should the US economy weaken, while keeping an eye on inflation risks. The US economy is facing a serious crisis with the jobless rate at around 9% since April 2009. The economy lost momentum in August as consumer spending declined and incomes unexpectedly dropped for the first time in almost two years.


The ‘Navratri’ rainbow: Festive colours spill over into normal life

The two-year-old ‘tradition’ —of sporting uniform colours on a particular day— is fast becoming popular

The most cheerfully strange 'tradition' of the 'Navratri' colour code seems to have enamoured Mumbai. The trains, railway stations, streets and public hangouts seem to be teeming with people in colour-coordinated outfits.

The 'Navratri' colour scheme seems to be a recent addition to the festival, and it sure has made a lot of women happy. Even the daily commuters look unbelievably chirpy—for once, not minding rising early and taking extra care to deck themselves up in the colour of the day. There is mutual appreciation on the ride, followed by discussions on the look for the next day—before gushing out at the destination in a uniformly-coloured flow.

The media seems to have taken an active interest in popularising the code. Many articles have appeared in newspapers, talking about the importance of the colour scheme, and offering fashion tips, that will make you blend in or rather, stand out in the uni-colour crowd. And the hype seems to have paid off well.

Where did this tradition of colours come from? Interestingly, nobody is sure. "We never followed it. But two or three years back, everyone started talking about it. And then in a train, everyone was planning to wear that colour together. Soon, I was doing the same," says a Mumbai resident.

Traditionally, red, green and yellow have been associated with the Goddess—which symbolise power & strength, growth & prosperity and auspiciousness. However, a few years back, other colours joined the list, with each day being allotted one colour. This year, the nine consecutive colours are: blue, yellow, green, grey, orange, white, red, purple and pink.

Notwithstanding the origin, the colour scheme seems to have touched everyone. Even the shopkeepers, food-stall owners and dabbawallahs are adhering to it. Temple premises look especially colourful—with the devotees lighting up the sanctum and the line of flower and prasad-sellers outside offering another bright splash.

Maharashtrians have little to do with the colour scheme in their rituals. But now, they are following the code happily. 'Navaratri' is the most important festival for Gujaratis, but even they seem to be unaware of the code.

"We don't have any colour scheme," said a Gujarati lady, "We wear our best clothes for the dandiya, but we don't have one particular colour for one day. The trend seems to be pretty recent, and I don't know how it came about. But it is fun to board a train and see everyone wearing the same colour. And the colour is just another excuse to go shopping!"

And boy, do colours sell. Almost all the roadside shops and showrooms are thronging with women who want to buy new sarees and salwar suits according to the colour.

"For the festive season, nobody likes to recycle old clothes. So we buy new colours," says Shrusti Mishra, a college student.

Of course, shopkeepers are very happy. The Goddess of wealth seems to have showered her blessings. Hopefully, when she arrives, the boons will multiply.


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