Conflux hits the road

Roadshow

Specialists around the world are independently guiding the adoption of Mifos. Providing local support and implementation services to MFIs is of the many values of the Mifos ecosystem. This is a guest post from Nayan Ambali, a member of Conflux Technologies, detailing a recent Mifos Roadshow, they embarked on throughout Northern India. 

Our roadshow was intended to showcase the functionalities of Mifos to MFIs in northern India. We chose to start with Utter Pradesh (North India state) because of its highly dense population plagued by gender inequality and poverty with more than 40% living below the poverty line. Most of the MFIs are lagging in adopting technology compared to their counterparts in South India. 

Honestly speaking we did not have a proper travel plan. The contact number of a few MFIs in Utter Pradesh was our only hope; we decided to do the journey completely by train.

Mission

Our mission for the roadshow was to educate MFIs on the following subjects:

  • Criteria for selecting the right MIS
  • The importance and role of IT in accelerating growth
  • Disadvantages of manual and semi-automated Systems
  • Start Date: February 17, 2011
  • Duration: 9 days
  • Cities Visited: Agra, Firozabad, Shikohabad, Kanpur, Lucknow
  • MFIs Visited: Shramik Bharati, Shakti Foundation, SEED federation, RGMVP, Swasahaya  Mahila Mandal, Dish Samajik Sasntha, Peoples Action For national Integration (PANI)
  • Next Roadshow: Western India

All in all our roadshow, we traveled 6000KM by 6 different trains, meeting with 8 MFIs, resulting in one Mifos Cloud lead for Grameen Foundation and the request to deploy Mifos at 3 MFIs - Shakti Foundation, SEED Federation and Mahila Swayam Sahayak Sangh (SHG). 

The challenge was "Right Now Right Here" in 3 days we need to train all of them and configure Mifos for each institution, making sure they could feed all the old data into the new system. Some wanted to see how data in reports would look once data was entered, and asked if we could customize reports in a day or two.

Here is how the journey unfolded.

Day 1 to 5: Shikohabad

Day 1 at Shakti Foundation, Shikohabad

We gathered at SF head office to demo Mifos. Dilip Sevarthi, who leads SF, gave details about SF operations - they practice the Grameen methodology, operating over the the last 8 months with 38 JLGs with 5 members in each.

          

Next we did a brief talk about what is information, focusing on:

  • Why information is critical?
  • Hoow to capture information.
  • How is easily it is accessible?
  • How Mifos solves the above problem
  • How do you take decisions based on info?
  • How the reporting system meets these needs.

Later we started the detailed Mifos demo

  • Clients, Groups, and Centers
  • Loan Products & Loan Accounts
  • Savings Products & Savings Accounts
  • Search & Browse for Client Accounts
  • Surveys and Progress out of Poverty Tracking
  • Office creations and hierarchy of offices
  • System Users, Permissions, and Data Scope

At the end of presentation we had a Q & A session.  Now I was waiting for MFIs response about Mifos. We were delighted by the response. Some notable responses included:

  • This software is made as if for the MFI!! :)
  • Can I learn and use this?
  • If we do mistakes then how do we correct?
  • And Shah Alam from SEED Federation was present, we want this software at SEED Fedeation also.
  • And Dilip Sevarthi also runs SHG in Firozabad, said "Can we use this at SHG?"

Day 2 to 5 at Shakti Foundation

We started detailed training showing how Mifos goes hand in hand with MFI operations.

With help of a pictorial user guide (the one we had prepared for RiSE) it was easy to explain.

The next big thing was entering Old Data (around 8 months data!!)

The operational staff of Shakti Foundation - Archanji (she used to maintain client/group and center details in book and cash book also) and Dilishan (loan officer) and Surajit (brand new data entry operator) - sat in a row. Along with Surajit, Vinay (Team member, Conflux technologies) sat as a mentor for data entry. They started entering the data and by end of day had finished around two months data entry! A great exercise to learn Mifos and get that data in. 

Finally we finished all the data entry, told how to take backup and also some DB backup using Dropbox. 

A Mifos deployment complete in several days!

Dilip Sevarti

Dilip Sevarthi's Office (Seva Hut)

Day 6 at Firozabad

On Day 6, we journeyed to Firozabad. From the earliest it was famous for glass and bangle works; its related small scale industry is famous throughout the world. Due to underdeveloped industry, literacy rates are very low. The city suffers from child labour, low literacy, and pollution.

Firozabad is known as the world capital for beads. Glass beads produced here are exported to all over the world for use in all kinds of items including clothing, accessories, Jewellery and shoes.

We visited Swasahaya Mahila Mandal and did a demo Mifos. But SMM’s model slightly differs from normal MFI operations with a great stress on savings. Information flow in SMM is not real time, meaning collections sheets are submitted to the office a week or two after the transactions have taken place.  This gap period creates a delay in gathering information at the head office. Finally to we took a decision to visit SMM again with some potential workarounds and custom reports – no deployment this roadshow. 

Day 7 at Kanpur

Kanpur is the tenth most populous city in India and the largest within the state of Uttar Pradesh. It is the largest city of the Hindi-speaking belt after Delhi. It remains one of the oldest industrial townships of North India.

Already we had a plan in place! Of all the places to visit in Kanpur – we had made an appointment with Shramik Bharati.

Shramik Bharati is a Kanpur based NGO which work with both rural and urban communities. The areas where Shramik Bharati works are a plethora of diversity where on one end there are communities living in urban slums of Kanpur which once upon a time was known as Manchester of East. On the other end of the spectrum we have communities in rural areas of Kanpur which are characterized by large tracts of saline lands, ravine areas and also highly inaccessible pockets of extreme poverty. However the needs in their own manner of both these communities are the same.


We did a Mifos demo to Shrikanth (Shramik Bharati MIS manager), as already they were using a standalone MIS developed by a local IT company. At the end we took some data from their old MIS and entered into Mifos and showed, how data is organized, what kind of reports are available, and how easily data is searchable!

 

Vinay (Conflux team), Shrikanth (Shramik Bharati, MIS manager)

Day 8 at Lucknow

The Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust (RGCT)was established in 2002 to commemorate and take forward the vision of Rajiv Gandhi – India’s former Prime Minister – for the country. The Trust, a registered, non-profit institution, was set up by his wife Mrs Sonia Gandhi and their children, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra, to address areas of concern that were closest to Rajiv Gandhi’s heart. It aims to translate Rajiv Gandhi’s vision into action by   implementing development programmes that have sustainable impact on these areas of concern. The Trust works in close collaboration with Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, a sister organisation and a think tank whose operations are aimed at influencing public policy, improving governance – local, national and international -- and providing enlarged opportunities to the underprivileged and the deprived. RGCT also has close links with the Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Trust (SGMT), a not for profit organisation which operates several development initiatives in Uttar Pradesh.

Before we talked with Mr. D. P. Singh, we thought RGMVP might have been a new MFI with around 1000 members. After talking with him, we realized there are around 350,000 community members in RGMVP and is almost 8 years old headed by P. Sampath Kumar (IAS). But I had a big question, if RGMVP liked Mifos application and asked how  to provide services, did we have the bandwidth to provide service? Then we thought of Mifos Cloud team, we contacted Mr. Binny (Mifos Consultant GF India) and explained the situation. He was happy to partner with us and have demo at RGMVP.

Mr Panjak Jain, Ms Meenakshi Nag and Mr Chris Chalms from UK’s Department for International Development (DFID)

“This is not the end, its just the beginning of the Mifos Roadshow”

                                        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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