Self-Help Groups & Microfinance
Prime Trust has provided microcredit to a number of self-help groups (SHGs) through its own program, its partner organization Akshaya, and through several internationally-based sponsors. Since the founding of Prime Trust in 2002, these various programs have provided loans and vocational training to more than 1,000 women in Puducherry and the surrounding districts of Villupuram and Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu. Through an emphasis on transparency and a user-friendly application process, Prime Trust's microcredit program sought to balance efficient use of funds with the unique needs of India's rural poor.
Prime Trust’s Self-Help Groups
Prime Trust has facilitated the formation of SHGs throughout Pondicherry and the neighboring districts of Villupurum and Cuddalore. These groups are located in both urban and rural areas that are out of reach for many other organizations. Most of the women are from the poorest Dalit communities—sometimes referred to as the ‘untouchables’. Due to lingering prejudices from the old Indian caste system, these communities are considered to be at the bottom of Indian society and often experience unfair treatment and discrimination. Acquiring a loan or any financial support to start a business from a normal bank is not a possibility for these women.
Prime Trust acted as an intermediary between the banks and women, helping the women open savings accounts and encourage the bank to agree on a low interest loan. The intention of these micro-finance loans is to encourage entrepreneurial spirit within the groups, so that their members can collectively establish their own small businesses and work towards financial independence. When these businesses start to turn a profit and a group successfully pays off its first loan, the bank offers a larger sum so that the group may continue to grow.
AKSHAYA: Our Federation of Self-Help Groups
In 2011 Prime Trust formed Akshaya, a SHG Federation dedicated to enabling skills-based entrepreneurship through microcredit. Akshaya helped women to financially underwrite their small business by providing a short-term loan for a period of 10 months. Akshaya had its own board with a Chairman and Directors from selected from Self-Help Groups and facilitated by Prime Trust. This federation makes application processes easy to follow, and prided itself in transparency, providing the necessary support throughout the process to ensure thorough understanding of the loan agreement and repayment through financial literacy and vocational training programs. Two highly trained field officers were employed by Prime Trust to travel to the various supported communities and provide assistance to ensure loans are being utilized efficiently and effectively.