How to boost financial inclusion

Parvati sells vegetables in the weekly market of Mhaswad in Satara, Maharashtra. She has a savings account with the Mann Deshi Sahakari Bank. But whenever she needs money, she takes a loan from the local moneylender. One day, while buying vegetables at the weekly market, I struck up a conversation and asked her why. She responded, “Yes, I know I am paying Rs 10 interest per day on every Rs 100 I borrow from the moneylender, which is exorbitant. But I do not want to take a loan from your bank because I require a loan in the morning and want to repay it in the evening or maybe next week. I also would like to take the second loan immediately. And all this flexibility is given to me by the moneylender and not by your bank.”

Parvati’s situation is not unique. Her business is one of the 63.4 million MSMEs in India, 99 per cent of which are micro enterprises with less than Rs 10 lakh in investment. These tiny businesses are run by nano-entrepreneurs, a burgeoning segment that is absolutely critical to the growth of our rural economy.

What is being done to bring these businesses into the formal economy? If we assess our progress against the definition of “financial inclusion”, which refers to the accessibility of banking and availability of credit, we can congratulate ourselves on significant progress. However, if we question the adequacy of the financial products that they find access to, we fall short. Parvati might be financially “included” but she is not financially “integrated”. The journey from inclusion to integration is not only about making products available and accessible, but also about making them relevant, applicable, and acceptable.

Sunday Zodiac: Signs that need to focus on being fit

We all have weaknesses that we need to work on. One of the major issues is fitness, and how regular we are at it. While being fit comes naturally to some, others need a lot of push to get started. This Sunday, here are the signs that need to focus on their fitness, as explained by Jeevika Sharma, a tarot card reader and guidance counsellor.

Capricorns need to maintain a balance in their life, which would help them focus on being fit physically and mentally. They will be able to maintain stability once they start working on it.

Aquarius usually spend a huge amount of money in order to stay fit. They will try all possible ways to maintain their fitness. But, if there is any way which seems to be working for them, then they should stick to it.

Pisces are the ones who need a lot of encouragement or need to be influenced for them to be fit. Once they get influenced, Pisceans will work hard to be fit. To put it simply, they need to be pushed to be fit.

For new hires, remote work brings challenges, opportunities

Rebekah Ingram’s remote internship has come with a series of unexpected challenges: She lacks a proper office set-up, her mother often calls for her while she works, and her dog barks during video calls.

Her situation will sound familiar to anyone who has worked from home during the coronavirus pandemic. The difference for Ingram is that she, like many other young people who started jobs in the past 18 months, hasn’t spent any time in a traditional office. She speculates that remote work is “way more informal”.

“It’s kind of trippy because…you’re working but you’re in your own environment,” said the 22-year-old, who is interning at Like Minded Females Network, a global tech and entrepreneurship non-profit based in London.

Many 2020 graduates left school and entered a world in turmoil, with limited job prospects. Some lost work opportunities as companies cancelled internships or froze hiring altogether. As restrictions have eased in many places, jobs have become easier to find, but work remains far from normal.

Most of all, many young workers say, they know they’re missing out when their office is the four walls of their bedroom. They wish they had more chances for everyday social interactions with their colleagues, both to build camaraderie and to find mentors.

Sohini Sengupta, 22, had an easy transition to remote work because she was used to doing it at school, but she feels she lacks a sense of community at her job.

“When I started working, I took a look at my workplace’s website and I could see photos of them taking trips together, enjoying themselves at the pool table at the office…something I had no chance to experience,” said Sengupta, who lives in Calcutta, India, and is working as a production trainee at a media outlet based in New Delhi.

Annabel Redgate, 25, a public relations account executive at PR agency TANK in Nottingham, England, began her current job in February. When pandemic-related restrictions began lifting a few months ago, she started to reach out to colleagues to meet for drinks after work. Now TANK has begun a staggered return to the office, and it’s the social atmosphere she’s most looking forward to.

“PR is a very personal industry, so I’m excited for the atmosphere in the office,” she said.

For Maya Goldman, a 23-year old health reporter based in Washington, DC, beginning her career remotely has meant struggling to set boundaries for herself, a process she figures she would have seen modelled by her bosses if she had been working in the office.

It was “hard to figure out … when was appropriate to tell my bosses that I was done for the night, or when I should take lunch, and how long I should take lunch for,” Goldman said.

Many employers are conscious of the need to help new remote workers feel welcome.

At 9 every morning, employees at Trevelino/Keller, a marketing firm in Atlanta, participate in “Spotify at 9”, where they all play the same song and talk about it on Slack. They’ve also held book clubs and watched TED talks virtually.

It’s part of an effort to make sure “while you’re waking up every day in your first career remotely, you feel like you’re part of a company and you’re part of our culture,” said Dean Trevelino, co-founder of the firm.

Liza Streiff, CEO at Knopman Marks Financial Training, a financial education company in New York, recently held a barbecue at her place, the first in-person event for the company since the pandemic.

Many of her employees were meeting in person for the first time. It was two of the youngest workers — an intern and another worker who recently joined full-time following an internship — who told Streiff “how much this meant to them”.

Companies are also helping employees take advantage of mentoring opportunities they may feel they’re missing out on.

Delhi court lets off man accused of assaulting cop with Rs 2,000 fine, says citizens in financial stress due to Covid

Observing that “citizens, particularly in private employment, are in great distress” owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Delhi court on Thursday passed a lenient sentence, imposing just a fine of Rs 2,000 on a man who was held for assaulting a police officer and fleeing with his vehicle.

Metropolitan Magistrate Dev Chaudhary convicted the accused Naveen Kumar under Sections 186 (Obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions) and 353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) of the Indian Penal Code. The maximum punishment for such a crime is a prison sentence of two years.

The court said that “the convict had assaulted an on-duty police official, who had issued him a ticket for violating the law”. “Instead of obeying the police official, the convict in brazen disregard of the law assaulted the police official and ran away with his vehicle. Thus, even after being found on the wrong side of the law, the convict showed utmost disrespect for the law. His conduct after conviction is also worth mentioning,” the court said.