A group of graduate marketing students at the Kelley School of Business Indianapolis share the excitement of city leaders celebrating the planned opening of a new bank designed to help local residents rise from poverty.
Grameen America—a global bank offering microloans to the impoverished to start businesses—recently selected Indianapolis as its third U.S. location and plans to open this summer. Ten business students take stock in knowing they helped Grameen see why Indianapolis was the right choice.
“In a very short period of time, these students helped (Grameen) recognize the possibilities and need in Indianapolis,” said Kim Saxton, clinical associate professor of marketing at Kelley Indianapolis. “Their work provided a richness in terms of the picture of these neighborhoods and what it looks like here, as well as the depth of insight that is not always visible to others.”
The students put in 250 hours last fall walking city neighborhoods, interviewing community residents and leaders and evaluating the landscape and demographics. An in-depth report was forwarded to Grameen, identifying five downtown zip codes as the ideal location for its services. The final location has not been announced.
The students “produced one of the strongest market studies that we have seen and the template that (they) created for future studies will be implemented for additional market research in varying markets,” wrote Katherine Rosenberg, vice president of strategic partnerships for Grameen America, in a letter thanking Saxton and the students.
Student Adam Crum said the research opened his eyes to pockets of the city forgotten by many but ideal for the help Grameen can provide.
“This project taught me just how pervasive social problems are in our community,” Crum said. “Through our research, we discovered how many people are willing to help change this. In some of the roughest parts of town, with the most desperate cases, neighbors have banded together to make Indianapolis a better place to live.”
Grameen’s founder, Muhammad Yunus, was honored in 2006 with the Nobel Peace Prize for the bank’s work in helping poverty-stricken citizens receive life-changing loans, now totaling nearly $7 billion worldwide.
Grameen, a Bengali word that translates into “of the villages,” began 30 years ago in Bangladesh by offering $50 loans to the poorest residents to help them start a small business. Since then, Grameen has issued loans to 7.5 million borrowers across the globe, mostly women.
The loans typically total about $1,500, require no collateral, carry a 15-percent interest rate and include repayment terms of either six months of a year. Since inception, the bank boasts a 99-percent repayment rate. Borrowers must work in groups of five and support one another, and they are required to make deposits into savings accounts in addition to their weekly loan payments.
Grameen celebrated its U.S. presence through a national screening on March 31 of its new film, “To Catch a Dollar.” The film—which chronicles the history of Grameen, its concept, and its impact on the world. More information is available at www.tocatchadollar.com.
Grameen also has U.S. branches in New York City and Omaha, Neb.