CSS India uses initial loans as small as $20 to enable thousands of poor entrepreneurs around Calcutta to transform their lives.
More than half the population of rural India, where CSS works, survive on less than 50 cents a day. An income that low means a family has little other than boiled lentil mash to eat, which by itself requires a large share of the family’s meager funds. Young children are usually denied the opportunity to attend school, because of a lack of money for school fees, and because they often join other family members in whatever they do to earn income. Formal employment opportunities are few. Those who do find work are often paid at a piece rate that does not provide a living wage, or they are forced to rent equipment from business owners, which siphons off most of their income. We are expanding into more villages on the north side of Calcutta to meet the great need.
Now operating in more than 400 villages, the CSS program serves thousands of very poor Indians, 70 percent of whom are women, with business loans averaging less than $65 each. In addition to cash loans, CSS disburses loans in the form of assets. These include van rickshaws, sewing machines, and income-producing animals, such as cows, goats, and chickens. Most loans are repaid over a 10 month period, from revenue that the asset enabled the borrower to earn. Loans of goats are repaid by returning healthy offspring to the program, to be provided to another borrower.
Loans are disbursed to very poor entrepreneurs, equipping them to support their families and contribute to their communities in ways never before possible. In addition, the program maintained a 99 percent repayment rate and completely covered its operating costs through its own program revenues. In addition to economic development efforts, the micro-lending work also supports a number of other outreach initiatives in the community.