Bandhan Bank boss on working with Nobel winners Abhijit Banerjee & Esther Duflo
Working to understand ground realities and how to contribute to poverty alleviation in India.
Take us through your connection with the Nobel Prize winner Abhijit Banerjee and the kind of programmes that you have actually been implementing?
I got the opportunity of working with him from 2006 through one of our best programmes targeting the hardcore poor. We know that we are reaching the people in low income group to provide micro credit, but we found after six years that some of the people who are the poorest of the poor in the community, are not even coming to take the micro credit loan. We decided to help them. That is the one project we started in 2006 with the help of the World Bank and the World Bank introduced me to Mr Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee. He was conducting one study on how to help the hardcore poor people to come out and make a bet as an entrepreneur.
That study 2006 has been started and with his model called the randomisation and the control group and the treatment group is decided in the villages. In the last 13 years, the programme has reached 11 states and 85,000 families.
To the treatment group, we are providing totally free service and giving consumption stipend, mentoring support, health and educational support. Within two years, these people have come out of poverty, as per his study.
We are continuing this study with those families for the last 10 years. He had come and worked on how their children are now different from the control group children and we are waiting for that study report to come. He informally told me it has shown very good result.
Did you manage to speak on the phone with both Esther and Abhijit and what was the conversation like?
Yesterday he was too busy and I called and he responded and we had a very short conversation. We have a very good relationship at the family level. Esther also has a very close relationship with us and every year, two to three times, Abhijit Vinayak and Esther Duflo go to the field with me to rural India and understand the ground realities and a lot of things including how to contribute to poverty alleviation in our country, I have learnt from him and her. I feel very proud of that.
How can both Esther and Abhijit’s studies be put to work given the current scenario? In the past, Abhijit has been pretty critical about reforms such as demonetisation. He has also had a very strong opinion about the slowdown the economy is currently facing?
I cannot be commenting on that point of view. But I can say that he knows the ground reality. He has a very good way of communication at the ground level, about the need of the poor people at the bottom of the pyramid and what type of methodology can help us to identify their need and accordingly provide that service to them. Every time, people do not need money. They also need mentoring support.
Abhijit can guide us and those who are working at the bottom of the pyramid.