Community Microfinance

Informal economy women workers are major contributors to India’s financial growth, yet remained outside the financial benefits of their work. Their personal financial development is stunted by limited access to fair capital, formal financial services, financial literacy, and economic opportunities. SEWA Bharat’s micro-finance program empowers women as independent financial actors giving them resources to save, invest, and protect their earnings. The program draws on the early microfinance work of the SEWA Bank.

Informal women workers’ financial needs
  • Door-to-door service as poor women cannot afford to make regular trips to the bank
  • Flexible, women-informed, and creative financial services and policies
Financial institution challenges for poor women
  • Credit is not easily available: Since women remain outside of traditional financial services, poor women are unable to provide collateral to banking institutions. Women and marginalized families fall victim to loan sharks, who typically demand jewelry, land, and other assets at unfair interest rates. Additionally, illiteracy handicaps women and families navigating complex and complicated applications for loans, bank accounts, and insurance designed for middle-class clients.
  • Transaction costs of borrowing are high: Standard loan applications take time to process, and women often forgo  precious daily wages trying to obtain loans by visiting the banks.
  • Transaction costs of using savings facilities are high: Transportation to the bank, is another factor that can inhibit women from accessing banking services. In addition to forgoing wages, women have to face transportation costs. Banking services can be as far as 10-15 kilometers from villages.
  • Formal features of the banking system clash with women’s needs: The rigidity of loan terms and the lack of timeliness of formal credit, in particular, further negate the effects of low interest rates.

SEWA Bharat’s three models for women’s financial inclusion and independence:

Self Help Groups (SHGs)


SHGa are small, economical, homogeneous, affinity groups of rural poor who contribute to a common fund to be lent to their members as per the group decision. SEWA Bharat operates using SHGs  in Bihar (Munger, Bhagalpur, Katihar and Siwan), Uttarakhand (Almora and Dehradun), West Bengal (Murshidabad), and Rajasthan (Bikaner).

  • 10-20 women of similar occupation, residency, and economic condition
  • Monthly meetings, internal savings, loans, and repayment
  • SHG registration to open a single collectively-owned bank account in nationalized banks
  • Access to additional funding from banks through cash credit linkages




West Bengal


Uttar Pradesh


No of SHG







No of women







Total Savings (In Rs)







Total loans (In Rs)







Thrift and Credit Cooperatives

SEWA Bharat supported Thrift and Credit Cooperatives are independently registered institutions that are self-managed and run by women who have risen from the grassroots level. The aim is to provide women with access to credit and dynamic needs-based financial services. SEWA Bharat’s microfinance services have been greatly inspired by the SEWA Bank, see here for more.

T&C product portfolio
  • Savings: Members can choose from a range of savings schemes depending on their requirements that include daily, weekly and monthly savings. Savings can be done through compulsory deposit, recurring deposit, fixed deposit or optional deposit.
  • Credit: The co-operative offers regular loans to the members at a declining interest rate of 1.5% per month to be repaid in 10 installments. Gold loan is a secured loan that has been added to the portfolio of the co-operative following member demand. A gold loan up to Rs. 15,000 is to be repaid in 10 months, Rs. 15000-Rs 30000 in 15 months and Rs 30000- Rs 50000 in 24 months at a declining rate of 1.5%. Another product known as the emergency loan, where up to Rs 2000 is offered to members within 24 hours is to be repaid in 4 months at a declining rate of 2%.
Services and benefits
  • Bank saathis (Agents) who go door to door or to members’ places of work to collect savings, loans and interest dues
  • Loans up to Rs. 1,00,000
  • Platform to provide other services to its members like water and sewage services by giving loans for installation
  • Gold loans on mortgage of gold jewelry
  • Trainings on financial literacy
  • Loan insurance
Delhi’s ‘Mahila SEWA Urban Co-operative Thrift and Credit Society’
  • 7,210 women members
  • Cumulative savings worth Rs. 16,13,553
  • Over Rs. 44.2 million worth of loans given to poor women

(All figures as of January 2014)

Bihar’s SEWA Bacchat Aur Sakh Swavablambi Sahkari Samiti Cooperative
  • 8,452 women have cooperative accounts
  • Cumulative savings worth over Rs. 21 lakh
  • In 2013, 226 loans were given, amounting to over Rs. 3.2 crore

Business Correspondent (BC) model


SEWA Bharat has partnered with the State Bank of India to promote financial inclusion and simultaneous income generation across remote villages and hilly areas of Uttarakhand, India.

  • 83,056 savings accounts and 11,921 no frill accounts opened
  • Over 1,400 loans worth more than Rs. 36 million distributed
  • Employment to 34 SEWA members
  • Rs. 2,84,483 total income generated for poor women
How BC model reaches the poor
  • Cadre of local women are trained as ‘Customer Service Points’ (CSPs)
  • CSP women use point of sale (POS) mobile technology to collect illiterate clients bio-data (i.e. fingerprint scanning, voice recording, and photography) and operate a stationary kiosk, that provides a banking institution in remote villages.
  • Member details are electronically registered with the bank
  • Rs 10,000/- as security per CSP is kept with the bank for deposits and withdrawals
BC model for income generation
  • Commission as per Royal Bank of India (RBI) guidelines is given to the customer service point (CSP) on the number of accounts opened, transaction, loan, fixed deposit (FD) and regular deposit (RD).
  • In 2013, bank saathis earned 7.9 lakh in commission to support their own outreach and work in SEWA Bharat’s projects in Uttarakhand.
  • State Bank of India issues a Business Correspondent Code to the SEWA women bank saathis engaged as customer service points CSPs, who provide a bank services. The rural poor are connected with bank accounts directly with the State Bank of India.
  • A Little World (ALW), the technology provider leverages low cost technology to integrate micro banking with network brand ZERO.
  • The ZERO platforms convert new Near Field Communication (NFC) mobile phones into secure and self-sufficient bank branches.


Annual Report

SEWA Bharat Annual Report 2013