SIALKOT is a hub for export-based SMEs that have earned international renown through sports and surgical goods. While the independent business community has its own airport, dry port and airline to facilitate local businesses, it keeps an eye out for the little guy as well.
“We wanted two-stroke rickshaws off our streets due to smoke and noise pollution,” says Mian Muhammad Khalil, Finance Secretary of the Khud Kifalat Rozgar Trust (KKRT). So we offered its owners a loan against a 25pc advance for new rickshaws. The old rickshaws would sell for about a quarter of the cost of the new rickshaws.
That started the basis of KKRT. It has 46 trustees that donate $100 a year (not as zakat). This is disbursed as qazr-e-hasna — interest-free microloans to owners of small shops, rickshaw and chand gari drivers and for the purchase of cattle etc. The maximum cash amount we offer is Rs100,000 — for bigger loans, they require a 25pc advance.
To date, KKRT has disbursed more than Rs90m to over 1,400 people with a zero per cent default rate over the last 10 years.
Community-based microfinance helps decrease the divide and resentment between the rich and poor and enables the city to develop as a whole. While lip-service is given to increasing financial inclusion, small projects that help those in the immediate vicinity may do better than larger ones that can fall prey to lack of transparency, accountability and corruption to easily rampant in all arms of the bureaucracy.
Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, August 1st, 2021