Kiva Enters India

Today Kiva expanded its service to borrowers in India. India is the second most populous country and the largest democracy in Asia. India is an emerging economy (part of the aspiring fast growing so-called BRICS countries), but growth has slowed over the past years.

India is still country with large differences. Kiva states that ‘With more than 32% of India’s population falling below the international poverty line and 68% living on less than US$2 a day, the country is in dire need of responsible, affordable sources of capital. But India has a complex history with microfinance, leaving many financial institutions unable or unwilling to serve poor and socially-excluded borrowers. Recognizing this need and opportunity, Kiva wanted to give the global lending community a simple, ethical channel to support India’s most geographically-isolated, underserved and vulnerable groups. These groups include widows, the disabled, leprosy-affected families and many more who have had virtually no chance at making a sustainable living for themselves before now.

To start its p2p microfinance for India Kiva has partnered with 3 MFIs: People’s Forum, Mahashakti Foundation, and WSDS.

To comply with regulation in India loans will have a minimum term of 3 years and there will be no repayments to the lender during the 3 years. More details on Kiva’s country page.

Kiva Enters Direct P2P Microfinance

Kiva Zip is an experimental site facilitating direct p2p microfinance loans without any intermediaries. The original Kiva model relies on MFIs (microfinance institutions) which locally validate borrower request and disburse the money and collect the repayments.

Kiva Zip eliminates the intermediaries directly connecting lender and borrower in person to person microlending. This will reduce interest rates for the borrowers (which during the initial testing phase of Kiva Zip pay 0% interest). The use of direct electronic and/or mobile payments further reduce the costs of the loan transactions.

On the other hand Kiva expects that these loans carry increased risks for lenders. Continue reading

joinFITE launched by Kiva and Dermalogica

Announcement by Kiva on joinFITE a new microlending platform to fund woman entrepreneurs:

In partnership with Dermalogica and strategic partners, today Kiva.org is launching joinFITE.org to provide microloans to women entrepreneurs in low-income regions of the United States and 56 other countries.
A novel aspect of the campaign is its engagement of retail consumers as microlenders. Dermalogica, for example, will contribute $1 every time a consumer goes to the joinFITE.org Web site and enters a code printed on FITE-themed packaging that the company is using for five of its best-selling products. The resulting micro loan is made available to a designated entrepreneur within hours.
“We know the collective impact of consumer action and socially responsible business practices can create sustainable and far-reaching change,” said strategic partner actress Geena Davis. “Together, we can maximize our effort to empower women and girls around the world.”
So what does that mean for p2p microfinance? Kiva has found a way to combine microlending with product placement. A positive viewpoint on this will be that the codes on the products will invite new people to try the concept of microlending. A negative viewpoint might be that the positive image of p2p microlending is used for branding and advertising purposes.
Anyway: this approach could be copied by Kiva (and other p2p microfinance sites) with more partners/products. As long as the selection of partners is very responsible the p2p microfinance site avoids tainting its image.
Related article with some more background at Fastcompany.

P2P Start-ups: Finding an Opportunity in the Midst of a Lingering Recession

The global recession or what has come to be known as the ‘great recession’ –in direct reference to the 1930s era Great Depression-has been with us unbelievably for the last 3 and a half years. It doesn’t seem like it does it? Many had predicted that it would turn out to be a ‘W’ or maybe a ‘U shaped or even a ‘double dip’ recovery by now, with most commentators assuming that we would most likely have seen its tail end with a year or two. Most- if not all of them- have been proved embarrassingly wrong! Countries such as the UK, US, Spain, Ireland, Hungary, Portugal –the list goes one and on and on and on- are still counting the cost of the recession in terms of lost jobs, productivity and in some cases, sovereign default! Recovery it seems, whatever alphabet sounds sexy, W or U shaped –is still yet to be seen in many cases.

Looking at the effects of the recession from the microfinance industry perspective however is what makes very interesting reading. Microfinance as such, is an industry that is curiously not correlated directly to the mainstream financial markets. Continue reading

Awe-Inspiring: Lender funded 23,079 Kiva Loans

Today, when I funded 2 more Kiva loans, I stumbled across the profile of Laurent D, from Belgium, who has funded 23,079 Kiva loans in the last 3 years. On his profile he states “I love the idea of helping people reach their financial independence”. Well said. And I bow to the dedication of making that many loans.

This got me wondering if there are lenders with even larger portfolio’s funded? There isn’t any information on this in the Kiva stats section.

Update: After using queries at Kivadata.org, it looks to me, that LaurentD actually is the lender, who did the most loans on Kiva, with Good Dogg, from the US, following second with 17,077 loans.

Which P2P Lending Developments Happened in 2009 as Forecasted?

In January I published my predictions for p2p lending trends in 2009. Now let’s see how good my crystal ball was. The black text is my original prediction, with the review added in green and yellow.

More competition and entering more national markets (probability 100%)
In many markets multiple p2p lending services will compete for the attention of lenders and borrowers. In other markets, where there is no national p2p lending service active yet (e.g. Canada, New Zealand), p2p lending will be introduced by the launch of a service. Possible candidates include Communitylend and Nexx.
It is hard to predict when the dormant US players (e.g. Prosper, Loanio) will overcome the regulatory hurdles and if that step is lasting.
The British market which has (compared to other markets) rather low regulatory barriers so far is dominated by a single player –  Zopa. I wonder if we’ll see the launch of a competitor there.

Multiple new services launched in 2009, e.g. Aqush in Japan, Sobralaen in Estonia, Uppspretta in Iceland as well as ill-fated Pertuity Direct in the US. Prosper reopened. The mentioned Communitylend and Nexx did not make it so far, though it looks like  Communitylend missed a launch in 2009 only by weeks. No competition in Britain for Zopa yet.

Boom of social lending services/p2p microfinance (probability 100%)
2008 saw the launch of Babyloan, Veecus and Wokai. Kiva funded more the 1 million US$ new loans in a single week in the end of December. The steep growth of Kiva, MyC4 and other services will continue and new p2p microfinance platforms will launch.

Kiva continued it’s enormous growth and popularity. Vittana and United Prosperity launched. For MYC4 it was a hard year with decreasing loan volumes. Continue reading

In Bed with the Enemy? Kiva and the Chevron Grant

100% of the money Kiva lenders loan goes to the borrowers via the MFIs. Kiva funds it’s operations by donations and grants. The list of corporate partners supporting Kiva is long and growing.

When Kiva announced that they received a 0.5 million US$ one-year grant from Chevron to assist with operational needs across the organization on the one hand that means that Kiva can continue to grow and pursue it’s vision.

On the other hand it did raise concerns with some lenders given the reputation of Chevron. The company is criticized of negligence of environmental risks on multiple accounts (example, example2 or see links in Wikipedia article). Many of the incidents occurred in countries where Kiva is now trying to help.

It’ easy to see why Chevron chose to assist the Kiva cause – it could improve their tarnished reputation and Kiva has a high visibility.

The issue is more on the Kiva side. Why did Kiva accept this grant from a very controversial sponsor? As hard as it must be to keep an organisation running solely on grants and donations – does the end always justify the means?

I am a fan of Kiva but I do have large doubts whether it was the right decision to accept this grant.

One lender in this discussion thread put it this way:

An organization that has human rights issues, donating to a group trying to empower humans.  Isn’t there something wrong with this picture?  What, is Chevron trying not to have nightmares when they put their head on their pillow at night, and Kiva is supposed to make them feel better maybe?  A good name for this partnership might be ‘sleeping with the enemy’ . . .