What started off as a humble initiative with the objectives of women empowerment and poverty alleviation, Bandhan has now come a long way.
Bandhan-Konnagar was started 20 years ago by Chandra Shekhar Ghosh. Bandhan transformed from its original avatar of an NGO to an NBFC, and finally to a pan-India universal bank called Bandhan Bank.
On Sunday, Bandhan celebrated its 20th anniversary. Bandhan-Konnagar still exists as an NGO and it runs developmental interventions across healthcare, education, livelihood promotion, financial literacy and employment generation.
Today, Bandhan-Konnagar runs programmes across 12 states in India and employs more than 3,000 employees. It has been able to touch the lives of more than 30 lakh families in its journey, the bank said in a statement.
Through its micro credit portfolio, Bandhan Bank has been able to provide financial support to more than 1.70 crore women, who are now micro-entrepreneurs and are successfully running their own businesses.
Speaking at the Bandhan’s 20th Anniversary event, Bandhan Founder Chandra Shekhar Ghosh said, “I still remember those early days when people found it hard to believe that a firm could be interested in just extending loans for small businesses to the poor. It was really tough to convince women to have the courage of starting on their own.”
He added, “I have always believed that small is beautiful but big is necessary. Scaling up was the only way to create large scale impact. During this process of scaling up, we were able to meet a wide cross section of the rural poor. We saw gaps not only in formal credit availability but also in education, health, hygiene, employment generation and a number of other social factors.”
Bandhan understood that it needed to drive social upliftment alongside financial upliftment. Thus, Bandhan focussed on the overall empowerment and upliftment of communities.
What’s next for Bandhan?
Ghosh said, “While Bandhan’s numbers indicate that we have created large scale impact, there is much more ground to cover.”
India is a large country. We are consistently evaluating opportunities to diversify existing programmes and launch new programmes aimed at holistic development of communities, he added.
Bandhan is not the story of a Bank, NGO or about micro credit or deposits or anything singular. Bandhan is the story of the sum total of all that we do to drive holistic development – development of individuals and communities.
“It has been 20 years but we are just getting started. We need to knock on every household, identify where and what intervention is needed and not rest till we make change and transformation happen throughout the nation. There will be challenges in the path ahead and we are equipped to navigate those as we have on many occasions in these 20 years. We will continue to create large scale impact and partner people in their upliftment – financial and social,” Ghosh concluded.