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Month: January 2010

Mass Weddings for the Poor

Mass Weddings for the Poor

The following was written for the Kiva Fellows blog.  Read the original here. This job is unique, in that it offers an endless supply of intellectual satisfaction.  Every day, I learn something new about something interesting.  For the time being, what interests me most is microfinance.  My knowledge of microfinance prior to Kiva could be described as purely academic.  Experiencing it firsthand has been rewarding.  In particular, I like understanding the details of execution, the challenges faced by the institution,…

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Hapinoy

Hapinoy

Here in the Philippines, the most common use for a microloan is a sari-sari store – otherwise known as a general or convenience store.  There are an estimated 700,000 of them here, and you can find one on just about every block in the country.  In 2007, an organization called Microventures Incorporated introduced its Hapinoy program, which is a coop of sari sari stores across the country.  By joining together, these stores can get leverage economies of scale to get…

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Baudelaire and the Red Horse

Baudelaire and the Red Horse

It is the greatest art of the devil to convince us he does not exist. – Charles Baudelaire, 1821-1867 Here in the Philippines, the brewery is called San Miguel.  Founded in 1890, the company employs 26,000 people and holds 90% of the Philippine market.  The largest brewery in the country is right here in Bacolod, so there is a lot of San Miguel pride.  There are three main brands – the San Mig Light, the Pale Pilsen, and the Red…

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Community Loans: Part II

Community Loans: Part II

The following was written for the Kiva Fellows blog.  See the original here. I spent all last week touring a province in the Philippines with a 7-person team in an effort to gather market intelligence about the region.  The purpose is to determine whether or not NWTF should open a branch here.  Much of our day is spent driving around a town (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) looking for the poorest neighborhoods.  The Dilapidated Housing Index…

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Community Loans: Part I

Community Loans: Part I

Microfinance is a term to describe the broad umbrella of financial services to people without access to a traditional banking system.  Microfinance institutions (MFIs) provide these types of services, which include microcredit, insurance (health, life, crop), savings accounts, remittances, and others.  Most MFIs rely on social collateral for repayment, which, in turn, is dependent on the strength of the community.  The community is at the center of the mission of microfinance, and some of the most interesting services offered by…

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Primer on Mobile Banking

Primer on Mobile Banking

The Philippines is called the “texting capitol of the world.”  Everyone has a phone, mostly because they are a) inexpensive (starting at $20 USD), b) offer flexible plans (everything is prepaid), and c) texting makes life easier.  SMS messaging is the predominant mode of communication not only here, but in other parts of Southeast Asia.  Even business inquiries and scheduling a meeting might be done via text.   The mobile infrastructure of the Philippines is far more robust and pervasive than…

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Deal or No Deal

Deal or No Deal

Anyone who has been to Southeast Asia (or anywhere outside the United States and Europe) knows that the price you are given by a vendor is not the price you are going to pay.  That is because we Westerners are an easy mark, perceived as a walking ATM machine that doesn’t know any better than to pay what they ask.  I’ve become a spendthrift since I arrived here, becoming agitated when I find a restaurant down the block that serves…

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Another Approach: Investing in SMEs

Another Approach: Investing in SMEs

This is the first in a three-part series about small- and medium-sized enterprises In March of 2008, James Surowiecki wrote an article for the New Yorker, titled “What Microloans Miss,” that suggests that the disproportionate amount of attention given to microfinance has steered funding away from other avenues for development.  A year and a half later, the Boston Globe included a piece on two recent studies on microfinance questioning its efficacy,  titled “Small Change.” Both articles revolve around the same…

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