Kenya Week Wrap-up

Feeding giraffeAfter two weeks of travel, I am happy to be home.  The visits were totally worthwhile.  I learned a whole lot about how these microfinance institutions operate and how different the India operations are from the Kenyan ones.  Without seeing them in action, I would not even have known what questions to ask.

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Mobile Money in Kenya

M-PESA shop

M-PESA (m for “mobile”, pesa is Swahili for “money”) is a mobile-phone based money and microfinance service offered by Safaricom in Kenya.  According to Wikipedia, it is “the most developed mobile payment system in the world.  M-Pesa allows users with a national ID card or passport to deposit, withdraw, and transfer money easily with a mobile device.”

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Out in the field with Grameen

Me with Kendra 1

Center meeting to collect repayments on loans

First day in Bangalore I visited the Grameen-Koota head office, where I got a feel for the issues that they are facing with respect to upgrading and keeping financial records.  Second day was a visit to the field.  Grameen mostly deals with group loans, so their model is that each day a loan officer goes out to a center (kendra) to meet with 2 or 3 groups.  In urban areas, such as Bangalore, most center Continue reading

Timeout for a Design Rant

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog for one of my “pet peeves” (and I have many according to my friends.)  But it’s design and travel related, so I feel it’s not too far off the mark.

Blackout Window Shades vs. Room Electronics – Who Wins?

This is by no means a problem unique to India, but I am reminded here because the room I am in has blackout window shades.  (This is probably related to the fact that most international flights arrive at 2am, which IS unique to India.  The other place blackout shades are prevalent is Las Vegas, but for a very different reason.)  Blackout shades are great, IF they actually block all the light.  The worst Continue reading

Safe or Sorry?

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After successfully getting visas to India and Kenya, getting immunized up the wazoo (cough, cough!), and obtaining an unlocked GSM phone for communicating locally while traveling (my first eBay purchase), I got an email from the VMware Security and Safety team (who knew we had such a department?) asking if I was aware that Kenya was classified as a “high risk” location.  I was already beginning to worry that I did not have any contacts in Kenya beyond the MFIs I would be visiting.  (I have no such worries about Bangalore – I’ve been there, I know people and VMware has an office there.)  People I talked to who’d been to or lived in Kenya told me not to worry, just be vigilant.  And don’t walk around after dark.  Other people said “Are you nuts?  Don’t you know they kill people with machetes over there?”

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