Interview with Dr.N.Jeyaseelan
CEO, Virutcham Academy for Social Changemakers LLP
Author of the Book – Scaling up Microfinance: What next?
Top 10 Focus areas to achieve a Purpose Centred Growth
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Q1. Please share your Inspirational journey with us?
About twenty-nine years ago, I was working as a Rural Development Officer in Indian Bank at the Harur branch located in a drought-prone backward area in Dharmapuri district in the state of Tamil Nadu. In that branch, the self-help group (SHG) based microfinance project was introduced. I did not show a keen interest in the project at the outset. I was implementing several poverty-alleviation programs through the bank and SHG program was also one among them. One day, I went for a field visit to assess loan applications from a women’s SHG.
After assessing and finalizing the eligible candidates from the SHG, I volunteered to include the name of the leader of that SHG for a loan as she was already known to me and had earlier repaid one bank loan and established a credit track record. I told her, “I am including your name for the loan.” But to my surprise, the leader of the SHG refused the loan and gave the million-dollar reply, “I do not need your loan. Let it go to the poorest in my group.”
I was shocked as always people used to come after me asking for loans. Once I returned to the branch, I called the NGO coordinator, who had formed that particular SHG, and asked about SHGs. The coordinator explained to me about SHGs: “Sir, this is the concept of self-help groups in microfinance. Leaders will not take the first loan, and all the group members will select the neediest persons who are in urgent need in the group for the loans on a consensus basis. We organized training programs under the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) assisted Tamil Nadu Women’s development project for bringing out such changes in SHG members.”
That was a great day in my life, as it was an eye-opening event for me. That event has made me realize the transformative power of training. I completely changed my mindset and found my purpose. On that day I resolved to focus on my purpose of empowering poor women through entrepreneurship training and microfinance.
Once I found my purpose, I shifted my career from banking (Resigning from the Bank job was a tough decision during that time in my life, as I did not have any big economic background and my son was studying Plus Two. My father objected for resigning as I had to sacrifice the pension benefit. But, my wife supported my decision and asked me to do what I love to do”) to the “Not-for-profit” NGO sector and became the Group Chief Executive Officer of a large NGO with projects across several states in India and in abroad. During my tenure, I supported several thousands of poor rural women in India as well as in abroad (Brazil, South Africa, Kenya, Cambodia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka) to move from homemakers to successful entrepreneurs and impacted their lives to live a dignified life.
This kind of making a difference in the lives of the poor gave me a sense of fulfilment and eternal happiness. Hence, after my retirement in May 2019, I started “Virutcham Academy for Social Changemakers LLP” and through our training program, helping people (Entrepreneurs, Homemakers, Youth, Bankers, NGOs, Professionals, Persons in job, Trainers and Coaches) to find their Purpose and emerge as a Purpose Centric Leader.
My Purpose Journey continues to impact 1 million people to harness their full potential in the next 5 years.
“THE PURPOSE OF LIFE IS
TO LIVE WITH A PURPOSE”.
Q2. You are running a program on Women Entrepreneurship. How do you see Women in this modern India as an Entrepreneur? Will this program help other Women to achieve financial freedom in India?
Initially I did not know the Power of Women. When I worked for 5 years in Tamil Nadu Women’s Development project, I got awareness about the role of “Gender” and then started promoting women’s participation in skill building programs, facilitated women to have access to affordable credit and handholding support to develop their enterprises.
Women are used to multi-tasking and they are managing the home daily, which itself is like an enterprise. So, with few training programs on entrepreneurship, women can be nurtured to take up entrepreneurial activities that are possible in their local economy. As seeing is believing, we project the selected successful women entrepreneurs as a role model to motivate other women to come forward and start a business.
This worked well. Hence, women entrepreneurship has great potential for India and that too in Rural areas, we harness the power of women to make the local economy vibrant and create financial freedom to women. To reach out to more women, Last year, Virutcham Academy has started online programs like Successful Start-up program, which will help aspiring women to start a new business and another online flagship program “3G Program – Growing You and Growing Your Business with a Great purpose” will help women entrepreneurs to scale up/expand their business using the “Purpose Centred Growth Approach”, which is a unique program, first of its kind in India.
Virutcham Academy is focused on
“HELPING PEOPLE GROW &
GROWING TO HELP PEOPLE”
Q3. You are an Author of Book “Scaling Up Microfinance…”. What exactly is Microfinance and please share some brief about your book?
In India, in spite of Banks having a large number of branches in rural areas, access of poor to bank credit is limited as they are not able to give any security as collateral. Poor borrow from informal sources like money lenders at an exorbitant interest rate ranging from 36% to 60% or even at 120% per annum. To bring the poor out of the clutches of money-lenders, Microfinance was started by NGOs. Microfinance means giving small loans to the poor without any security as collateral by the Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs). Later banks also started giving microfinance loans.
To make the peer pressure as a social collateral, poor are organized into Self Help Groups (SHGs) and loans are given to poor people through these SHGs. In India, now more than 100 lakhs SHGs (reaching out to nearly 12 crore households in India) are there and more than 85% of SHGs are women SHGs and these SHGs are making a silent revolution in making available the credit to the poor women at an affordable interest rates without security.
During my career of 33 years (22 years in Bank and 11 years in NGO), I practiced a unique model of “Purpose Centred Growth” model i.e Not only giving loans, but ensuring that the loans are used by the borrowers to invest in a business so that they will get an additional income. It is also helping other stakeholders like staff, Society and Environment. Under Purpose Centred Growth model, there is a win-win for each stakeholder like clients, staff and society. Hence, our model was scaled up across the globe and we could able to help several thousands of poor women. I shared this model (which I practiced) in my book titled “Scaling Up Microfinance: What Next? Top 10 focus areas to achieve a Purpose Centred Growth”.
Many Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs) found it difficult to focus on their initial mission as they were under pressure to make profits for the investors. My book has become a boon at this crucial time to help such MFIs to balance both Purpose and Profit.
Microfinance has proved that
POOR ARE BANKABLE.
Q4. Why are you running transformational training program for achieving business growth? What is your motto behind it?
I am passionate about transformational training i.e. not just teaching something. But, to support and make the participants to realize the need for a change, take action and change themselves. Because, the business growth is always dynamic and uncertain. During this difficult pandemic period, the uncertainty is only certain thing and hence, entrepreneurs should be ready to face the disruptive change in their way of work/life and have to become adaptive to the new normal and then only they can move forward. My advice to them is
“During the downtime, prepare on yourself by working on your weaknesses and prepare with future ready skills (e.g. Digital skills), so that you can be ready to face the challenges in the new normal era”.
SELF-EDUCATION WILL PAY LIFE-LONG RETURNS AND HIGHEST DIVIDENDS.
Q5. People say that Entrepreneurship Skills comes in any person by birth. Is it possible to develop it by learning?
Of course, people from certain communities or from certain regions are more entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurship is just a mindset. Whether you may be a business owner or working in a job (as an Intrapreneur), you should have the Entrepreneurial Mindset. It is learnable. You can change your mindset by working on our sub conscious mind. In our training programs, I focus more on creating a change in the Mindset.
For any Entrepreneurial success,
80% IS MINDSET
ONLY 20% IS OTHER TECHNICAL SKILLS.
Q6. An Entrepreneur will face many stages in their journey like Idea Execution, Managing People, Fund Raising and many more. Which is the hardest part of their Entrepreneurship Journey according to you?
Myself and my wife have interviewed women entrepreneurs and had written a series of articles in a monthly magazine called “MUTRAM” (which was reaching to around 65000 households in Tamil Nadu) for seven and half years and each month, we had written about a success or failure of an enterprise managed by women. The article series was named as “Mutra Kutcheri” and during those days, it was adjudged as the “Most preferred article” by women.
From the experience of those field visits, I find “managing people” is the missing link for the entrepreneur. Because, when you have a good idea, you can even raise funds. But, if you do not manage people, you cannot scale up your business. Again, when you follow the Purpose Centred Leadership approach, you will inspire people to work under you and staff will stay with the organization.
In our 3G program (Growing You and Growing Your Business with a Great Purpose), we offer strategies to grow / scale up the businesses using the Purpose Centred Leadership model, which is an USP of our Virutcham Academy.
FIND YOUR PURPOSE!
MEANS WILL FOLLOW IT!!
Q7. You had both Banking and Coaching experience in your long span of career. Which one do you like most and why?
Rather than banking, my heart is on Coaching. That is why I always tell in my programs about my Success Mantra:
LOVING WHAT I DO!
DOING WHAT I LOVE!!
Q8. Tell us about one of the moments which changed your perspective towards life?
Even though I joined a Bank job, I did not have an ambition to move to the next level. I was stagnating for a long period (13 years in the same cadre). I did not even complete the passing of CAIIB, which was considered during that time as an important milestone to get to the additional increments. Till 39 years of my age, I was not having any idea of where I will be heading?
In 2001, I went to Myanmar to train UNDP (United Nations Development Program) project staff on nurturing Self Help Groups. During that time, I stayed there for 3 months and visited 69 remote villages to train poor rural women on how to manage their Self-Help Groups. During that time, I observed that most of those women were following “Visualization of their Vision” and displaying their vision as a Picture in their houses. I also found that most of those women were achieving their vision. This inspired me to evolve my Vision.
On returning back to India, I reflected on my experience and I evolved my vision “To become a Doctorate in Microfinance by 2006” and I have made a drawing as if I am holding a graduation cap of my Ph.D degree and the vision statement and I pasted this Vision Picture opposite to my work desk so that I can daily see it. When we see the vision picture daily, it enters our Sub Conscious Mind and the SCM will attract opportunities and resources and make us focus our efforts toward achieving our vision. I introduced a new habit of waking up at 4 am and dedicated 4 to 6 am – two hours daily for learning new things about Microfinance.
This I continued as a habit for 17 years and helped me complete the Ph.D in 2007, and also to complete several other courses like Master of Women’s Studies, MBA-Banking & Finance, Diploma in Training & Development, World Bank’s Training of Trainer program on Microfinance & Certificate program in Microfinance from Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, Germany. This journey completely transformed my life and I became an International expert on Microfinance and taken up assignments in India and abroad for several international agencies like IFAD, UNDP, UNOPS, GIZ, ADB, IADB and so on. My global exposure was enhanced as I did special programs in the best of the best institutions like Harvard Business School, Boston, USA, INSEAD Business School, Singapore and Boulder Training Program in Turin, Italy.
I developed several innovative microfinance loan products and processes and helped rural women benefit out of those services. I learnt this Visualization of Vision technique from SHG women and benefitted myself a lot and hence, “as a Give Back to the society” decided to disseminate to all the rural women.
I particularly motivated the women (before taking a loan) to have a vision for their enterprises, to be displayed in a pictorial form in their house. As they started displaying the vision, their family members also helped women to achieve their vision. This has benefited a lot of women entrepreneurs in finding their right destination and in moving forward. I brought out a booklet sharing the success stories of poor women, whose lives were transformed because of the Visioning by them. This document had gained the attention of great people including the then President of India.
Yes, to my surprise, On 3 Jan 2007, when I boarded a train from Madurai to head to Thrissur for handling a training session, I got a call from the collectorate. The person at the other end informed me, “Sir, we have received an intimation from the president’s secretariat asking you to be at the Madurai airport on 5 Jan 2007 to meet the Honourable President of India, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. Come to the collectorate tomorrow morning for security clearance by police and an entry pass.” I was so excited I canceled my trip and returned home.
The next day I went through three levels of security checks, and on 5 Jan 2007, I met the Honourable President of India at the airport. During the meeting, he appreciated me for my contributions to empower the rural women by motivating them to have a vision for their businesses. This was a great boost to me to redouble my efforts toward the purpose of women empowerment.
From an average person, I moved to greater heights in my life just because I made it a point to focus on my Purpose and Vision. Hence, now I started telling people to have PURPOSE AND VISION for them as well as for their businesses.
To know more about PURPOSE Journey, Please attend his Signature Program: LIVE YOUR LIFE WITH A PURPOSE, a Live Online program that will happen on Last Sunday of every month.
Read more about Dr.N.Jeyaseelan @
YouTube: DR JEY CHAT.