Banking Lessons from the Campaign Trail
Friday, June 19, 2009
By MEERA SANYAL
The journey from banker to politician and back has been a rewarding one. Everything, from mapping out the strategy, putting together the team and the actual campaigning, was an inspiring and humbling experience.
We struck a different path from the start. My team and I decided to eschew the decorated chariots and buses (called rathyatras) adopted by our opponents and instead opted for a campaign on foot (popularly known as padyatras). This put us right into the private space of citizens – we had access to the narrowest by-lanes that intersect the slums and tenements of South Mumbai, and it allowed us interact face-to-face with the famous spirit of Mumbai.
In the process I learned a great deal about my city and its indomitable citizens. It also provided a unique insight into the numerous challenges and opportunities that businesses and banks can profit from when working with citizens.
“I am convinced that there is a role for urban microfinance and social enterprise and business, which is yet to be fully explored.”
The most notable challenge and therefore the greatest opportunity clearly lies in improving the infrastructure of this megalopolis. Home to circa 15 million people, Mumbai’s infrastructure is clearly inadequate. The pressure on every civic amenity – public transport, roads, water, sanitation, education, housing, open spaces – has led to xenophobic calls to shut the gates of the city to immigrants. That is clearly not the answer. As I interacted with scores of Mumbaikars I was struck not just by their tolerance and desire to live peaceably with each other, but also by their propensity and willingness to contribute to being part of the solution.
Household small savings exist even in the poorest families, where every member of the family works for a living. They seek long term fixed-income avenues of savings which can be drawn upon in their old age or to finance socially expensive lifetime events like births and marriages.