Location: Jodphur Setting: Urban Established: 2009 Staff: 3

Subject Areas

Microenterprise/Microfinance: Community banking, Microcredit, Social entrepreneurship
Community Development: Community empowerment, Community mobilization/organization, Capacity building
Organization Objectives

The mission of Aastha Credit Co-Operative Society Limited is to eradicate poverty by building a secured and transparent microfinance institution for providing financial assistance to the underprivileged; especially senior citizens, women, handicapped, and those who are living below the poverty line. The board has adopted a co-operative approach thereby involving every member in the mission with the spirit of mutual cooperation and mutual confidence. The credit society has instituted a working culture, which revolves around efficiency, transparency, professionalism, teamwork and flexibility.

Program Information
1. Self-Help Groups (SHGs)

Aastha provides loan advancements to primarily women who organize themselves in groups of ten, known as self-help groups (SHGs). Since its inception, Aastha has facilitated the formation of 50 SHGs in Jodhpur district. The SHG fills out a comprehensive loan application after which a field investigation is conducted by the Aastha staff to verify various aspects of the information on the application such as residence and occupation. After the loan is approved, the SHG comes in to the Aastha office to sign the final loan documents and receive their loan in cash. The entire loan application process is usually completed in less than five days. Each woman that is in the SHG receives Rs. 10,000 meaning that the SHG receives a collective loan of one lakh or Rs. 100,000 at a very low interest rate. The loan payments are expected monthly and the duration of the loan is usually one year. If the clients are unable to make a payment one month, Aastha is very accommodating and will just wait until the next month for payment without any negative consequences. So far Aastha’s record has been spotless and a model for others to emulate in the microfinance community.

Opportunities

Since they will be working at a small grassroots, newly established organization, interns at Aastha Credit Cooperative Society should come prepared with some basic knowledge and familiarity of microcredit and/or microenterprise. Interns should be open and willing to undertake a variety of activities. Some intern activities may include:

  • Researching client base, banking histories, documenting success stories and case studies.
  • Updating the new Aastha website by adding case studies, reports, videos and pictures.
  • Researching opportunities for increasing business development.
  • Researching issues, best practices and lessons learned in local microcredit/microfinance context.
  • Researching and documenting qualitative and quantitative results and gain comprehensive community feedback.
  • Researching and developing appropriate trainings, workshops, and educational materials for the SHGs.
  • Develop accounting tools to maintain personal finances; conduct financial literacy trainings for illiterate SHG members.
  • Develop a promotional packet to increase awareness about the organization’s products and services (micro-savings, microfinance, micro-insurance, etc).
  • Researching appropriate funders and help apply for grants to develop organizational capacity.
Requirements

Interns working at Aastha Credit Cooperative Society should be creative, resourceful, and not easily frustrated by limited resources. Interns should have a willingness to learn as much as possible in their first few weeks at the cooperative and be flexible in their activities. Other desirable qualities include:

  • Excellent writing, research and documentation skills
  • Background in independent research
  • Background in economics
  • Interest in and some knowledge of rural development in India
  • Interest in and some knowledge in microcredit/microfinance
  • Intermediate/Advanced Hindi a major plus
Program Supervisor (All Programs)

Interns will be supervised by Rajendrapal Singh, Chairman and Managing Director. Aside from directing the operations of Aastha, Rajendrapal has held a position in a cash finance company rendering him tremendous experience in the areas of finance and credit.
Note: Responsibilities offered to each participant will be proportionate to their level of experience. Participants who are new to development work may predominantly support and assist current project agendas, while those with much applicable experience may be able to assume greater responsibility. Research projects are strongly encouraged by this organization to support each program’s objective because minimal resources are currently allocated for research.

Working Conditions

Aastha’s office is near First Puliya near Chopasani area of Jodhpur. The work week is Monday through Saturday. The organization operates with limited resources and staff. Currently, the organization has a Chief Manager who is a retired Bank Officer, Manager and a Field Officer. The office is located above the banking center and has a conference style table and two computers. Interns are strongly encouraged to bring their own laptop, if possible. Office computers are limited and frequently in use by staff members. Interns should also bring a small digital recorder that can be used for field interviews and meetings, allowing for later reference or clarification. Many staff members are not fluent in English. Interns can prepare themselves by starting to study Hindi before their arrival in Jodhpur.

Organizational Background

Aastha opened in 2009 with the goal of helping to eradicate poverty by providing a secure and transparent microfinance institution that would lend its services to the underprivileged, women, senior citizens, handicapped, and those living below the poverty line. Aastha provides many savings services to its members who open an account such as fixed deposit, recurring deposit, and daily deposit schemes. These programs are used to help educate Aastha’s members about the positive aspects of saving for the future while giving them a very high rate of return on their investment.

UAastha’s website About Aastha’s Clients

The members of the Aastha SHGs are mostly women living in the Jodhpur district who are living below the poverty line. This includes women living in the slums of Jodhpur as well as the outlying villages from different castes and communities.