Inside Mahila Money, a new digital-first platform offering easy micro-loans to aspiring women entrepreneurs
Seven years after building Sheroes, a women-first community platform for women, Founder Sairee Chahal now aims to help one million women fulfil their entrepreneurship aspirations by giving them the finance and resources they need.
To do so, she has recently launched, a digital women’s bank that aims to bridge a woman’s growth aspirations and financial products.
With Sheroes, Sairee has built a strong network of over 25 million, with three hooks – employment, entrepreneurship, and access to capital.
“When the pandemic struck, a lot of people turned to us for help. I offered some soft loans from my pocket to help users and understand how the system could work. I thought if I get my money back, we’ll go further on this,” she says.
This is what led to Mahila Money.
Targeting the good borrowers
According to Sairee, women are great borrowers, and this is a huge impetus in building Mahila Money.
The platform does not provide service to farmers, artisans, or women from rural India. Instead, it serves women who are not served by microfinance.
She explains: “To give you an example, think of Sridevi’s character in English Vinglish. She’s aspirational, she has a business of her own, but no one recognises it. She could grow her business provided she receives the right resources.”
Mahila Money offers micro-loans with ticket sizes between Rs 10,000 and Rs 2 lakh at present.
But Sairee says its services does not stop with the disbursement of the loan.
“When a woman joins the Mahila Bank platform, she also gets access to a large community of other women entrepreneurs who help and guide each other in growing their business, facing challenges, and learning how to market their product, why it is important to have a good CIBIL score, etc.,” she says.
Mahila Bank has entered into partnerships with banks and NFBCs like Transcorp, visa, My Shubh Life, Avail Finance, and Shivalik bank.
Easy and stress-free process
It takes just 10 minutes to fill a form and upload scans of the user’s Aadhaar Card, PAN Card, and other documents. They get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response within 48 hours.
“It is 100 percent digital, and most importantly, there is no requirement to bring in a family member or a male member, which most banks often ask for. The most important thing is that women can take loans in their name. We take down 120 data points on the applicant, and if we don’t know her credit history, we see what else we can use to give her a loan,” she says.
Those who do not clear the application process are built into the community to improve their prospects and learn how to better their financial footprint.
Sairee points out that the loans usually have 100 percent repayment rates, with most women paying ahead of time. If they can’t, they also make sure they communicate the reasons for the delay.
So far, 100 loans have been disbursed to women entrepreneurs pan-India, and Mahila Money has built a community of 1,50,000 women.
Sairee cites a few examples to substantiate how the system works.
“We have a paper-cutting artist from Shillong, who is using the loan to set up a shop for tourists. Two women in Hubbali will use the money to expand their beauty business. Recently, we disbursed have a loan to a reseller to buy a laptop for herself. Another one got it for her beauty parlour, and then there are home bakers as well. Our repayment terms are also lesser than those offered in the market,” she elaborates.
While Sairee calls herself the Chief Instigator and Chief Orchestrator of Mahila Money, she has two able co-founders in Siddhika Agarwal and Vaibhav Kathju. Siddhika is part of the CEO’s office at MMTC-PAMP, India’s largest Gold and Silver refinery. She was the founding team member of Digital Gold.
Vaibhav comes from a rich experience in BFSI of 18 years and was recognised as one of the *100 Top Most Influential BFSI Leaders* by the World BFSI Congress recently. He worked in companies like Deutsche Bank, DBS, TransUnion Cibil, and HDFC.
The initiative works with a team of 12.
At the end of last month, Mahila Money also kicked off its first-ever roadshow to meet women and talk about their financial aspirations and challenges. Starting the journey from Mumbai, the first leg will cover six cities in West India.
“Women are already financially curious and want to move to the next level where they can save more, reach their financial goals, grow their business, increase their social standing and build an identity – all on their own. Mahila Money aims to hand-hold them in their dreams and goals,” Sairee signs off.
Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta