Vince Main and Akshay Regmi – managers at Kiva. Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. By lending as little as $25 on Kiva, anyone can help a borrower start or grow a business, go to school, access clean energy or realize their potential. For some, it’s a matter of survival, for others it’s the fuel for a life-long ambition.
Q1: What do you appreciate yourself in the business mainly for?
For Kiva to be able to constantly reinventing itself. We started very traditional, working with organizations based on donations. Then, we moved to social enterprises which are doing the most innovative work on the ground. It was real gamble, we decided to take that risk and it proves to be really successful. Kiva’s biggest success is not saying we are good so let’s just keep doing that, but we are constantly looking and trying to change ourselves for better. Another success and big part of our job is to make the connection between lander and borrower. There is a complex team of staff and volunteers that make this connection happen, from the click of the lenders till the guy on motorbike who goes through rice fields in Vietnam to deliver the money to the borrower to make his life better. And then our success is directly connected with the success of those partners who are doing really good job on the ground. To give just an example, there is one solar services company that not only provides the equipment but also offers maintenance contract with schools and hospitals in the mountain, where there is no possibility for electric wires to go anywhere. These guys go there and they are able to electrify all hospital. It’s just amazing.
Q2: What is the biggest challenge for you now?
The model works, the connections are happening. The challenges come with specific. Every partner and every country is a different challenge. For example, Cambodia has a really overheated market at the moment, too many micro-finance organizations. We always try to pick up the one which is doing really great job, but it may be affected if the whole market just blows up. Different challenges are in Vietnam which is an ex-communist country, they got really tight controls on money. They don’t understand that somebody can give interest-free loans. Getting money into and out of Vietnam can be very challenging. The same is with India. India means money going in and staying for 3 years cannot come out. Kiva figured out the way so that money can go into India and come out. We see challenges around and our job is about figuring out how at the end of the day money will reach people that need it the most.
Q3: What advice do you have for yourself in this situation?
Trying to find these organizations which are doing amazing work and understand how we can fund them. The ideal organization that we are looking for is an organization that figured out its model, that is doing amazing work, it’s operationally sound and just need this infusion of funding, so that they can scale up, expand people they are affecting and impact.
Would you like to add something else?
Kiva is a social platform for social good. In fact, it’s a crowdfunding website, in which we crowdfund for really, really good causes. We collaborate with partners who are willing to work on the ground to reach people with the lowest income, underserved and the most vulnerable populations. Our partners get information what somebody needs to buy, maybe cow or goat or motorbike, maybe seeds, solar panel, water filter, it can be everything as long as it serves a really strong social purpose. They put details of the loan on our website and our loaning community of 1,3 million people review it and see which loan they want to fund. Funding level is incredibly high, is it actually about 98%. The real benefit and what people like the most about Kiva is that you get direct line to a side. The minimal loan is 25$, and it’s you to decide to which person you want to give it. You can search on our website by sector, country, topic, gender, all sorts of criteria. You can see the person, see the photographs, understand the story behind and the reason why somebody needs money. Every single cent goes directly to that person, then over time, it can be half a year, it can be five years for example in educational type of loan, that person pays you back. When the money comes back to you, you can make decision to withdraw money and put it in your pocket or you can reinvest it to the next project. Most money stays in the system and get recycled.
The questions were asked on our behalf by Anna and Andrea from How to (ex) change the world.
Singapore, 9th June, 2016