All stories Published: 04 November 2015


Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) are critical to economic development and job creation in developing countries. However, many aren't able to access loans or formal financial services – in South Asia, for example, more than 80 per cent of MSMEs aren’t able to get the finance they want. 

Equitas specialises in providing loans to small entrepreneurs. The company began in Chennai, southern India, and now lends money to three million microfinance customers across 12 Indian states. Its customers are primarily women who run small businesses, where a loan will help them to improve their business and add to their income.

The company prides itself on lending responsibly. Before loans are made, borrowers attend three days of training sessions. At these sessions they learn more about Equitas, about who qualifies for a loan, and how the loan is to be used. Once loans have been made, Equitas’ support for its customers continues. It recognises that giving a loan on its own is not enough and that its customers need broader support.

The company offers skills training and health services, supports low-income households with food and grocery expenses, and provides affordable education for its customers’ children.

Equitas is not just about lending; it’s about improving the quality of our clients’ lives. We have designed an ecosystem which can address the spectrum of their needs.

John Alex, Group Head of Social Initiatives, Equitas

How CDC's investment supports Equitas

Since 2013, we've invested $40 million directly in Equitas. The investment has helped the company to grow. The number of customers supported by Equitas has increased to over three million and it now operates in 616 locations in 12 states.

CDC, by nature, is a long-term investor which really looks into the value that it can add in the long term to a country’s economy… CDC has been really supportive of us.

H K N Raghavan, CEO, Equitas 

How Equitas creates jobs

I had an idea to do business, but I did not have the money. Then I heard that we could get a loan.

Kala lives in one of Chennai’s poorer neighbourhoods. Here, unemployment among women is high. She runs a tailoring business with her husband. Like hundreds of millions of Indians, Kala doesn’t have a bank account. She found it hard to borrow money when she wanted to buy a sewing machine and start a business.

Equitas loaned Kala 10,500 rupees (around $160) she needed. Kala has used the extra money she has earned from her business to pay for household expenses, healthcare costs, and her children’s education.

Kala said: "We can use the money we now earn from our business for our children’s studies, for taking care of us if we fall ill, and to buy things for our home."