Reaching the unreached

SHERAB DORJI | Thimphu

Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW) microfinance private limited, which is incorporated as a private limited company under the Companies Act of Bhutan 2016 aspires to improve the quality of life and status of vulnerable women and their families in rural areas.

It is aimed at ensuring sustainable, long-lasting access to finance for the benefit of the target group in rural communities focusing primarily on women. RENEW microfinance provides services like financial literacy, savings, and loans to their clients.

Like all financial institutions in the country, RENEW Microfinance has also come up with some measures to help the rural people during the pandemic. 

It includes the power tiller loan given for boosting local agriculture and the Yeshey Dawa Premium Saving Scheme for long-term saving plans. 

For this, RENEW Microfinance private limited has requested cash flow support from their partner Whole Planet Foundation (WPF). 

RENEW microfinance’s deputy chief executive officer (CEO) Tshering Dema said that the services provided to rural clients are successful as many clients are happy with the services they provide.

She said, “As a microfinance service provider, we are playing a key role in catering to the financial needs of the rural communities who otherwise do not have access to them and help them better their lives.”

He further added that people have received the new product very well and are very successful. “The goal is to assist our clients to graduate from subsistence to enterprising farming and increase their revenue.”

A client of RENEW microfinance from Trongsa, Sangay Tshering said, “I couldn’t buy a power tiller until an official from RENEW Microfinance came to us and that’s how today it has become very easy for me. I am grateful too.” 

Another client from Mongar, Pema Wangchuk, shares the same. “It is affordable as compared to the market and I am very thankful to the officials of RENEW microfinance. The effectiveness of my work has increased compared to olden days,” he said.

Meanwhile, services and products are offered in collaboration with Karma One Stop Shop, where power tillers have been provided at a 15 percent discount rate, compared to the market price, and with a very affordable “equated monthly installment (EMI)”.

Yeshey Dawa Premium Saving Scheme was also initiated during the pandemic as a long-term saving scheme for one’s future or children’s education where a client saves a fixed amount monthly for 10, 15, or 20 years. 

Tshering Dema says, “Upon maturity, the client will receive 20 percent, 30 percent or 40 percent premium amount of the total principal amount accumulated respectively with an additional 5 percent interest rate per annum over the years.”

The advantages of this scheme are that the client cannot withdraw the amount in between the tenure and an attractive premium amount will be received at the end of the tenure. 

She said that as clients would not be eligible for the premium amount if they withdrew the amount, a saving discipline is created, which also helps plan long-term saving and security.”

For instance, they also helped their rural clients get continuous financial services even during the lockdowns where they asked special permission from the local dzongkhag administration to travel to the villages.

Tshering Dema said, “While maintaining the Covid-19 protocol, additionally we provided our clients with free face masks and sanitizers at the center meetings (access points).”   

With digitalization in the country, RENEW microfinance will customize and make user-friendly technology for rural-based clients and illiterate clients.

“We will have to synchronize our system with the other financial institutions’ platforms to make it efficient and interoperable for our clients’ usage,” she said.

Meanwhile, after studying the market feasibility, RENEW microfinance is planning projects for green financing on biogas plants, greenhouse farming, waste management, and hydroponics. 

The company covers 95 gewogs and one thromde from the ten dzongkhags with a head office in Thimphu with 24,869 clients as of June 2021.