Microfinance Focus, Oct. 26, 2009: India’s microfinance icon Vijay Mahajan, who had just finished an arduous moderation of heated discussion at a session of the Microfinance India Summit 209 on Monday was in for a surprise when he entered the other room where the awards were to be announced. He was selected for the award for his lifetime contribution to the microfinance sector. The jury has also given a special award to late mentor Sitaram Rao for his contribution to the sector.
The institutional category award was given to Bandhan which has created history in less than a decade since its birth. Bandhan CEO Chandra Shekhar Ghosh received the award on behalf of Bandhan.
VIJAY MAHAJAN, AN ICON
Born on Oct.1, 1954, Vijay Mahajan graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and joined Philips as a marketing executive. After a four-year stint, he joined the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. After graduating from IIM-A in 1981, he started working in the rural development field in Bihar, the poorest state of eastern India. In 1983, he established an NGO, PRADAN which works with over 120,000 poor households, promoting livelihoods and community institutions.
In 1996, Mr Mahajan set up BASIX as a “new generation livelihood promotion institution”. Till March 2008, BASIX had helped support the livelihoods of over a million poor households in the agriculture, allied and non-farm sectors by extending micro-credit worth over Rs 1,200 crore (US$300 million). BASIX goes well beyond micro-credit to offer a “triad” of livelihood promotion services including savings and insurance services, agricultural/business development services and institutional development services to rural producers and their
Mr Mahajan was a member of the Raghuram Rajan Committee on Financial Sector Reforms and the Rangarajan Committee on Financial Inclusion. He is a member of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) and the Rajasthan Mission on Livelihoods. He serves on the Boards of ASSEFA, Gram Vikas, ARAVALI, DSC and the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA), and on the Executive Committee of the
Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), a global microfinance body.
In 2002, he was selected as one of the 60 “Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs” at the World Economic Forum (WEF), Davos. In 2003, he was conferred the Distinguished Alumnus Award by the IIT, Delhi.
In 2008, Mr. Mahajan was elected as a Member of the Ashoka Fellowship, a global association of leading social entrepreneurs. Vijay was also selected in India’s 50 Most Powerful People 2009 by the Business Week.
Mr Mahajan has been an advisor to the Planning Commission, Government of India, the state governments of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Sikkim, and to the RBI and NABARD. Vijay has co-authored a book “The Forgotten Sector” on rural, non-farm sector in India. He has published over 50 articles on rural livelihood, development and micro-finance in international journals.
Mr Mahajan was a member of the Raghuram Rajan Committee on Financial Sector Reforms, chaired by Raghuram Rajan and also of the Rangarajan Committee on Financial Inclusion.Vijay serves on the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority, the Micro Finance Development and Equity Fund. He is the Principal Advisor to the Government of Rajasthan on Livelihoods. He serves on the Boards of Association for Sarva Seva Farms (ASSEFA), Gram Vikas, ARAVALI, Development Support Centre (DSC) and on the Executive Committee of the CGAP, a global consortium on microfinance.
Kolkata-based microfinance institution Bandhan has many credits to its name. Apart from diversifying its microfinance loans into every possible stream, it hit headlines recently with its new product for the unemployed youth called “Employing the Unemployed”.
In less than eight years, Bandhan has emerged as one of the the largest microfinance institution in India and was ranked second in the world by Forbes magazine in its first ever listing of the world’s top 50 microfinance institutions (MFIs). Bandhan’s steep rise in volume and reach is often attributed to its variety of products within the microfinance sphere.
Last year, it launched free schools in villages for underprivileged children up to the age of 14 years, who couldn’t ever go to school or had to drop out because their parents couldn’t afford to educate them.
Bandhan – meaning “togetherness” – offers microfinance services to poor women in the state of West Bengal. Founded by Mr. Chandra Shekhar Ghosh in November 2000, Bandhan started operations in 2002 and is currently registered with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) as a non-banking finance company (NBFC).