Banking on beggars!

So he called his people and said, go lend money to beggars. And why not? At what level does someone give up and accept the life of a beggar? When all social systems fail. So, they were not the problem - the system was.

This one here – is especially for Rincy, Naveen and Gurudutta. You have been anxiously waiting for the Part II of our saga of the Prophet of the Bonsai People – Muhammad Yunus. So, here we go….

Professor Yunus, who made micro-credit a new chapter in money banking and public finance, after lending money to the poor without collaterals and paperwork, had yet one more frontier to conquer.

This time, lending money to beggars.
So he called his people and said, go lend money to beggars. And why not? At what level does someone give up and accept the life of a beggar? When all social systems fail. So, they were not the problem – the system was.
Professor Yunus told his people that each person working at the Grameen Bank must lend to one beggar. Only one, per person. That it had to be one and no more, was a strict requirement.

He would not accept lending to the beggars as a charitable, volume game. His idea wasn’t your anonymous, no-skin-in-the-game, loan mela of the nationalized banks. His people had to know the beggar, respect him as a person, and believe that the man (or woman) can redeem himself. And then lend.

Only a handful came forward and lent to a few beggars. Others watched, as they always must. Then the floodgates opened. They too came forward. All the 27000 people who work for Grameen Bank.

The beggars were given small loans. No freebies, loans. They were asked to repay the loan at their convenience and without interest. No pressure. There was an interesting angle to this arrangement though – each time the person pays back, he or she becomes eligible to borrow an even larger amount of money.

So, what did the beggars do? Every beggar, like a salesman, has a route. He follows it based on his own judgment of effort versus yield. Nothing has changed from that model. Except that, now the beggars go to their points of call, armed with knick knacks, toys, story books, small food items – they offer their clientele the option to give them alms but suggest they buy something from him instead of giving alms.

A miracle started to take place in the lives of many beggars. It was not about their economic self-sufficiency. It was about the redemption of human respect that they had lost. All their lives, they were given their alms or turned away from outside the doorstep of a householder. Now the householders ask them in so they can inspect the merchandise, the children can touch the toys or the housewife can scrutinize the merchandise closer. Now the children tell them what they must bring the next time they return. The beggars started to turn a new leaf – they never thought they could come in. 10,000 beggars do not beg anymore. Many more have now opted to become, “part-time beggars”.

Meanwhile, what is happening at the Bank?

The 27000 folks at the bank, who witnessed one miracle or the other, came to professor Yunus and protested the unfairness of his diktat of one-beggar per banker. It was not okay to restrict them to only one beggar. How could the professor underestimate their capabilities? After all, they had proven the model was working, it could work. Each one-lend one was such an archaic model!

Finally, the Professor relented. Now, each person at the Grameen Bank can lend to up to four beggars! And that is the story of a 100,000 beggars who are clients at the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh.

Next week, I must tell you about something very different – it is about budding entrepreneurship and what I learnt from three very different and young people at a TiE event I was invited to moderate at Bangalore.

Until then, Go Kiss the World!

Best wishes,


Debachou Says
Monday August 25th 2008

It’s really amazing going through your blog and real life experience. The lessons we learnt through real life rigors are
fascinating. Why cant we emulate the experience of Dr Yunus. To me , politics stand in the way, but the question is how to overcome it?

    Apuarv Says
    Tuesday August 26th 2008

    I think its all about trying enough. We need to start focusing on these essues.

      Tuesday August 26th 2008

      Dear Apu,

      I believe it is about deep conviction and about what your heart is asking you to do, then the relentless way in which the man pursues what he does. There is also a disarming pacifist in him. He is Gandhi like in many ways.



        Friday September 12th 2008

        Your book was indeed mind boggling.So simple and yet so inspiring . Am sure this book is going to change the lives of many young indians , even those who may never have nursed any ambitions to achieve. Besides that the principles and moral values that have been been given so much importance wiil surely make erveryone Think ! Thanks a lot .Would love to read some more books like that. You have done us indians proud .

      arobinda Says
      Monday September 1st 2008


      The two part story about Dr Yunus was very inspiring. The language was so good; much more practical than the political one. Thank you for sharing.


Thirumani Says
Monday August 25th 2008

Hi Subroto,

Thanks for sharing all the lessons you have learnt and thought provoking things that you have come across.

The story about the beggars you have narrated here is a very good example of the power of trust and human acceptance towards others in the society. After reading your book ‘Go Kiss the world’ I realised that you have made this as your fundamental value / principle in your life. What still bothers my mind is – even after so many people explaining this very lucidly and vividly to this world, why on earth it still takes people to fall down and then realise this. Why is it that this cannot be taught? Why is it that people have to experience it to realise this? Please comment.

I do have some more questions to you after reading your book ‘Go Kiss the world’. I will post it very soon. First I want to give myself some more time to think and see if I can find answers to those myself.


Monday August 25th 2008

This is getting very interesting Sir! Again, can’t wait….

These articles are putting some ideas into my head….

Ashish Says
Wednesday August 27th 2008

Amazing story and Thanks a lot Subroto for giving us the opportunity to read it.
Last week only, I picked up your book ” Go kiss the world” and finished it in no time. I think it is a must read for young professionals of today. As NR says above ” all what you write puts ideas into my head”.
Shall look forward to more writings from you!
Thanks again


Debachou Says
Wednesday August 27th 2008

Dear Sir,
Restlessly waiting for next article . When to publish ? Dr Yunus’s experience with beggars have shaken my belief and attitude to beggars and others of same class . Deep in my heart I started believing that your entrepreneurship article will throw a light on my way to do something meaningful in life.

Wednesday August 27th 2008

I found the article quite intresting to change the mindset of budding talents .
We once again thank you to spent your time with readers.

Padmalochan Mohapatra
Lecturer(HR) and Incharge Placement Officer.
Srusti Academy of Management.
Near Infocity
Chandaka Industrial Estate

Rincy Says
Thursday August 28th 2008

It was truly beautifuly and inspiring..such a simple model..but who really thinks of it..the reaction when you see a beggar ranges from pity to irritation to down right contempt in some is nice to learn there is always a better way to deal with issues instead of useless cribbing and blaming the system..thanks..will keep my eyes peeled for the next post..i like the way you put your posts as a story and sounds less preachy and more practical that way..keep up the good work!

Gurudatta Says
Friday August 29th 2008

Hello Sir,

Thanks a lot for reliving the moments in your blog since most of us who read your blogs may not always have the privilege to listen to Muhammed Yunus. I feel in a way you are also doing something like the ‘Banking for Beggars’ with the ‘Go Kiss The World’ approach… we all read your blogs and so far i have been circulating most of your articles to all my friends, colleagues and hence the chain builds up… i guess one fine day we kiss the world and the world kisses us back!!!

Hrithik Dattani Says
Monday September 1st 2008

Dear Sir,

Your articles are ‘just amazing’. Truly inspring and informative.

Thank you very much.

Gautham Says
Tuesday September 9th 2008

Fabulous piece!! Just goes to show how you can make a difference to people’s lives if you’re passionate & focussed. Thanks for sharing this one, Subroto.

Debachou Says
Thursday September 11th 2008

10 days elapsed and no write up yet ! Are you alright?

Lubna Says
Sunday September 14th 2008

Dear Gardener,
This is beautiful. A friend of mine has begun this initiative on a much smaller footing, for women. However, instead of giving money, which the husbands could squander away in drink, she buys them thread, loans them sewing machines and teaches them soft skills that a tailor handling customers requires. It is in the nascent stage, we hope it will be a success.
Best regards

ashutosh Says
Wednesday April 29th 2015

good read

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