The Beginnings of Microfinance:


Access to savings and loans was one of the primary demands of members. Hence, SEWA started its activities in Delhi by forming SHGs in Jahangirpuri, Raghubir Nagar and Sundernagri. Initially the SHGs also served as a platform to organize members.

For a couple of years the members were happy and satisfied being part of SHGs. However, later on, the SHGs were not able to satisfy all of their demands and they started demanding another alternative. SEWA Delhi organized an exposure visit to SEWA Bank in Ahmedabad for the SHG leaders. This proved to be a turning point for the microfinance programme of Delhi.

The SHG leaders were very impressed with the work they saw in Ahmedabad and started rooting for their own institution in Delhi as well. Thus, after a number of community meetings, it was decided to form a thrift and credit cooperative society in Delhi, the ownership of which would rest with the members. 234 women came forward and contributed Rs. 500/- each towards the share capital. In total share capital of Rs. 99,30,100/- was raised. However a long struggle awaited members. The Registrar office of cooperative societies was not convinced that a group of semi educated women can run their own institution. After repeated visits and arguments, which lasted for more than a year, Mahila SEWA Urban Cooperative Thrift & Credit Society Ltd. was finally registered in February 2007. The elected representatives in the board are members of SEWA, and they actively participate in the decision making.

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The uniqueness of the cooperative is that products and services have been formulated that are best suited to the needs of the members.

The members receive door step services from Bank Sathis who go door-to-door or to the work areas in order to collect savings, loans and interest dues. Depending on their cash flows and incomes, members can choose from a boquet of savings products. The interest charged on loans is just 1.5% per month as against 5% to 10% being charged by exploitative money lenders. In addition to this, members are also given financial literacy trainings to enhance the quality of their financial decisions.

The cooperative is providing financial services to over 7,871 women, with a share capital of approximately Rs 99,30,100 lakh and savings from members worth Rs 581.03 crore by March 2019; 9,600 loans worth Rs 21.32 crore have been disbursed.



Credit is not easily available: Poor women cannot provide traditional forms of collateral, and are thus excluded from many loan programs. Moreover, illiterate women often find that they cannot cope with complicated loan procedures designed for middle-class clients.

  • Transaction costs of borrowing are high: Standard loan applications take time to process, and poor women lose precious daily wages trying to obtain loans.
  • Transaction costs of using savings facilities are high: Transportation to the bank, in addition to wages lost while going to the bank, also pose a cost.
  • 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.


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. 15,000-Rs 30,000 in 15 months and Rs 30,000- Rs 50,000 in 24 months at a declining rate of 1.5%. Another product known as the emergency loan, where up to Rs 10,000 is offered to members within 24 hours is to be repaid in 4 months at a declining rate of 2%.

  • Bank saathis (Agents)who go door to door or to members’ places of work to collect savings, loans and interest dues
  • Loansup to Rs. 2,00,000
  • Gold loanson mortgage of gold jewellery
  • Trainings on financial literacy