Idolising a family legacy

Way back in 1976, on a warm summer evening in Varchakudi village in Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu, a 14-year-old Karthikeyan waited with abated breath while his discerning father examined a freshly-made clay idol. The idol was the first Karthikeyan had crafted on his own after watching his father at work for days. This idol was to mark his young debut into the decades-old family business – there was nothing else he wanted more. At the first signs of a smile on his father’s face, Karthikeyan jumped with a loud shout!

Over the years, Karthikeyan has not only mastered the craft but also turned his father’s humble enterprise into a flourishing business with an annual turnover of Rs 5 lakh ($7,800) with 10 full-time employees and a production of about 100 idols a day. The figurines – of religious icons – are supplied to major cities in south India such as Trivandrum, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Panjim.

All this, with a lending hand from our zero-interest loan program.

In 2004, like his 250 fellow resident families in this quaint coastal village, Karthekiyan’s life and enterprise came to a sudden halt when the Tsunami swept over Nagapattinam district.

“The waters washed away my work shed and much of our belongings,” he recalls.

In 2006, Karthikeyan approached HOPE foundation for a loan of Rs 50,00 ($900) in different installments over six months.

He used the money to rebuild his shed and resume work. Within the next two years, he had not only paid off the loan but also made enough profit to increase production and hire two more people.

In 2008, Karthikeyan’s credit history with HOPE foundation qualified him for a total loan amount of Rs 5 lakh ($7,800) from two private banks. He bought a plot measuring 800 square feet and built a concrete two-storied building housing his work shed on the ground floor and his home on the upper floor.

“We’d always lived in a mud-and-straw hut; building this house was my dream. If HOPE foundation hadn’t helped me, I wouldn’t have been able to do this,” says Karthikeyan.

His all-women team of workers who churn out the idols with clockwork precision, have been trained by Karthikeyan as part of a government capacity building program. “I trained 25 students – 10 of them decided to work with me,” he says. Karthikeyan now wants to set up retail outlets for his idols.

Recently, the 52-year-old hosted a grand wedding for his eldest born. His younger daughter is studying Masters in Arts (English), while his son, of course, is poised to carry the family legacy forward.

What we do

Thousands among the poor have turned entrepreneurs with help from HOPE foundation's microfinance program. We provide zero interest loans to people in need of seed money to start small businesses. Instead of providing cash, we fund raw materials and directly pay vendors to get the businesses off the ground.

The program has helped many in rural areas and urban slums where dreams are often crushed under heavy debt from high interest (up to 25%) and multiple loans.

The zero interest on our loans and flexible repayment schemes has seen an impressive repayment rate of 95%. This has also made the people more credit-worthy with banks, which are offering them loans between Rs 200,000 ($3,600) and Rs 500,000 ($9,000).

The program is helping over a thousand people gain livelihoods in Delhi, Ariyalur, Nagapattinam and Pudupattinam every year.

Here's why

Microcredit organizations have assets in excess of $22 billion and serve more than 113 million people. Microcredit has enormous potential as a tool for poverty alleviation.

(˜The Limits of Microcredit A Bangladeshi Case, Food First Backgrounder - Institute for Food and Development Policy, Winter 2008, Vo. 14, No. 4)