Communication and Marketing
MFIN’s communication and marketing strategy has focused primarily on building a positive perspective and image of the sector by engaging proactively with external stakeholders. This has included visioning and positioning efforts with relevant stakeholders and establishing MFIN as a knowledge hub. The vertical was conceptualised in the year 2014. It was with the understanding that the nature of the sector is so that it requires constant external stakeholder facing engagement.
Socialising MFIN and the Industry with the media
MFIN has systematically over the past year socialised with the media at the national, state and district level to build a positive and informed perception about the industry. MFIN regularly organises media interfaces across the country to socialise the sector with the press. This has resulted in the vernacular press publishing articles about the positive role that the sector is playing in providing access to finance to the vulnerable low-income populations. At the national level, MFIN has been engaging with leading financial dailies as a source of information and opinion on varied industry issues. In addition to this, the vertical supports the State Initiatives team in addressing perception issues faced by the NBFC-MFIs in the field.
MFIN has been associated with the two leading media channels NDTV and CNBC-TV 18 as an official spokesperson on the MFI sector. This has been done through panel discussions and interviews. The enhanced visibility of MFIN has resulted in the organisation being positioned as a thought leader of the sector.
MFIN has also consistently engaged with the vernacular press to help build a positive perception around the sector at the field level. We have initiated placement of client centric stories at the state level. As a part of this initiative the first case study was shared by Svatantra Microfin on their Mediclaim Initiative. The story was carried out in leading publications of the state of Madhya Pradesh namely Dainik Bhaskar & Hari Bhoomi. Mediclaim as offered by Svatantra has conceptualised a unique technology led solution with help of an insurance provider wherein they offer tailor made low cost to entire family of 5, including parents, of rural household. It has successfully closed medical claims of more than INR 60 lakhs. The Marathi edition of Dainik Bhaskar featured MFIN on budget expectations of women leaders across the industries featuring Ms. Meenal Patole – CEO, Agora Microfinance. The vertical also organised press interactions with the editorial teams of Pudhari and Lokmat at Kolhapur and Satara. The below meetings were attended by MFIN representative and members from Madura Microfinance, Ujjivan Small Finance Bank and Grameen Koota Financial Services Limited. The purpose of the meeting was to socialise both the papers about the sector. Both the papers were publishing negative news about the sector. The editors were receptive and have assured the delegation that further news will be verified with MFIN before being published. MFIN coordinated the media interactions for the Odisha State Association of Financial Inclusion Institutions launch event.
MFIN During De-monetization
November 2016 and the period thereon has been tumultuous for the NBFC-MFI sector with ground level implications that affected the smooth flow of the business seen over the previous years. Post the discontinuation of High Value Currency Notes (HCVNs) with effect from midnight of 8th November, the industry was thrown out of gear initially. This was to be expected in a sector which is 99% cash intensive and has a unique doorstep delivery model specifically for the unbanked and underbanked.
The first effort was to reach out to the concerned Ministries and the RBI to allow the NBFC-MFI sector to collect old notes for a specified period and with a suitable cap per borrower as a sizeable part of the borrower base is from peri urban or rural India where access to banking is low or not available. After due consideration, this request wasn’t acceded to. Issues were further aggravated with low level functionaries with political aspirations jumping into the fray to rally unsuspecting borrowers with promises of loan waivers. In some states where elections were scheduled these issues were further acerbated. Despite this, the industry has been able to get their borrowers to repay loans. The fact of 80%-85% collection during this period speaks of the value micro credit has in the lives of these borrowers. They are aware of the importance of strong credit histories and made the effort to pay back.
During the whole two months’ post discontinuing of HCVNs, MFIN engaged with State Governments at both the ministerial level as well as the bureaucracy, the RBI and extensively with the press to quell the surge of disinformation regarding microfinance practices. The irony is, however, that over the last 4-5 years, 45 million women have been brought into the framework of a regulated platform to access credit from a regulated platform. But the fragility of the process is evident in the fact of how quickly misinformation can lead to disrupting their credit histories making them once again vulnerable to the grey market as their primary source of credit. This illustrates the need for further educating clients on how best to take their own interests to not to become victim to misinformation. Going forward, this experience can only lead to further strengthening the sector and making it more resilient in the face of any exigency that may come forth.
Strengthening of Regional Networks through events and Public Relations
MFIN engages actively with forums and networks including SAMN, Banking with the Poor, Afghanistan Microfinance Association, African Microfinance Association etc. to promote exchange of knowledge and best practices. The annual flagship MFIN International Conclave is one such platform that has over the years brought together various practitioners, policy makers and relevant stakeholders to brainstorm policy issues and exchange best practices. As first of the series MFIN in association with the South Asia Microfinance Network (SAMN) organised a South Asia level Conclave in Delhi, India. The Conclave “Financial Inclusion to Sustainable Development: The Road Travelled” brought together participants from five South Asian countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka. Some of the key highlights captured within the first edition were:
- Unveiling of MFIN documentary during the opening session.
- A Special video message by Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus
- Inaugural Address was made by DFS Secretary along with other key dignitaries. while the Valedictory Address was given by Honorable Member of Parliament – Ms. Supriya Sule
- Unveiling of the MFIN publication “Pathways to Financial Inclusion in South Asia: The role of Microfinance by Mr. Vijay Mahajan
- It witnessed participation as speakers from Reserve Bank of India, Member of Parliament etc.
The second edition of the International Conclave for the year 2017 Microfinance in Asia: A Mosaic focussed to bring practitioners and stakeholders to discuss and deliberate on key subjects such as regulations, governance, perception management, informing the microfinance sector across the world. It included participation from South Asian and South East Asian countries of Vietnam, Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia, China, Cambodia, Russia, Bangladesh, Laos and Pakistan. The Conclave discussed issues centring on various aspects of microfinance including enablers, players and clients and tried to capture mutually beneficial practices from across the region with the intention of creating synergy and excellence in microfinance. The Conclave is an annual MFIN property that will aim to build a platform of knowledge and interface between different models of microfinance operating across the globe. MFIN regularly provides empirical data to the Banking with the Poor and SAMN for their periodic assessments about the country level industry growth.
MFIN hosted the second edition of Associates Round Table with the objective to socialise the Associates with Members of MFIN and understand the priorities and expectations that Associates have of MFIN and the ecosystem. The key note address was given by Mr. Manoj Mittal, Deputy Managing Director, SIDBI highlighting several initiatives that SIDBI has taken to position Microfinance within the larger financial inclusion within the ecosystem and also enable sharing best practises.
MFIN, in collaboration with Venture Intelligence hosted the 6th Lenders and Investors Meet in Mumbai with the objective to provide a platform for interaction between Members, Lenders and Investors. his year the forum witnessed the launch of the Mutually Accepted Code of Conduct (MACC) in line with the discussions. MFIN facilitated between various stakeholders lending to the Sector. The stakeholders included NBFC MFIs, SFBs and banks, all of whom are lending to the microfinance segment. MACC was introduced as a voluntary platform where various players all agreed to provide credit to women from low income households in a uniform way while also agreeing to work within the mutually agreed framework that all stakeholders would be signing up to. MACC was formally released by the Deputy Governor of RBI – Mr. N.S Vishwanathan. The vertical also regularly facilitates knowledge exchange programmes with Microfinance agencies of other countries.
MFIN Associateship Programme
MFIN rolled out its Associateship programme in January 2014. This was done with the understanding that stakeholders other than NBFC-MFIs who have a lasting bearing on the financial inclusion dialogue and are of immense value to the sector need to interact and work with each other to fuel the larger goal of financial inclusion. The Associates are a valuable part of MFIN’s construct and there is a constant dialogue with them at various forums including at the state and district levels. MFIN includes the following institutions in its Associateship programme – Banks, NBFCs, Housing Finance Companies, Insurance Companies, Business Correspondents, Private Equity, Social Investors, Think Tanks and Foundation. The Associates are invited to different platforms and are part of MFIN’s construct with reference to advocacy and policy discussions with different stakeholders. As on date MFIN has 38 associates on board. In addition to the industry news and updates MFIN has introduced a calendar which captures the profile of MFIN Members and Associates as a part of social media platforms.
Communication Collaterals for visibility and dissemination
To stay relevant in the public eye, MFIN has been building on various communication collaterals.
Awareness campaign: Prints, tv and radio have been extensively used to inform customers on range of issues related to credit products such as credit discipline, repayment capacity and productive use of credit, KYC, credit bureaus, their rights and obligations, RBI guidelines on NBFC-MFIs and interest rates among others.
Mobile Application: A Mobile Application has been developed to inform clients about various aspects of lending including interest rate, KYC, credit bureaus, repayment capacity etc. The application also has user friendly tool which allows the customers to calculate their instalment and interest component. The application is developed in 7 languages including English, Hindi, Tamil, Telegu, Marathi, Kannada and Bengali.
Customer Testimonials: A client testimonials (Kiran A Ray of Hope) on microfinance model is developed which are used by the NBFC-MFIs to engage with new customers. The film Kiran a Ray of Hope aims to chronicle a journey of a borrower Kiran and the impact microfinance has had on her life. Kiran is an entrepreneur who along with her husband runs multiple businesses. The film through her voice lays down the various processes of accessing credit through microfinance institutions, the impact on the same on the economic and social indicators and sustenance of livelihood.
MFIN in collaboration with PwC published a report on the detailed proceedings of the Conclave entitled Microfinance in Asia: A Mosaic; Outlook. Additionally, MFIN continues to publish Corporate Brochures, Annual Reports for each fiscal year. Civil Society magazine has been publishing about the sector consistently. Their anniversary issue featured MFIN on their inner front cover.