Towards an inclusive world

Day three of the 13th edition of DD Kosambi  Festival of Ideas saw managing director and CEO of Northern Arc Capital, Kshama Fernandes speak on ‘Empowering Rockstars at the Rockbottom- Journey to an inclusive world’. NT BUZZ reports


Goa-born Kshama Fernandes, the managing director and CEO of Northern Arc Capital spoke on ‘Empowering Rockstars at the Rockbottom- Journey to an inclusive world’ on the third day of the ongoing 13th edition of DD Kosambi Festival of Ideas at Kala Academy, Panaji.

Northern Arc Capital is a finance company in India that invests and connects under-banked institutions and businesses to capital market investors. And Fernandes was motivated to start this company following an incident some years ago during a journey across the Atlantic Ocean when she was instrumental in a rescue mission at sea. This incident, she said during her talk, made her realise that she was not born to only live for herself, her family and children, but was made for a bigger world and bigger challenges.

Thus, she stepped out of her comfort zone and left Goa to explore the world she wanted to change. “I wanted to start a company that would lend to those who nobody else wants to lend to,” said Fernandes. And over the decade, she travelled to the remotest parts of India to villages that still have no access to proper roads, to meet people living in the most challenging financial circumstances but who refuse to give up on their fight for survival. “A lot of us probably have access to all the products and services and we are so used to them that we don’t even notice them. But millions of Indians across the length and breadth of the country don’t yet have the same access,” she said.

In fact, she said, as per World Bank statistics, only 14 per cent of Indians has access to formal finance and the rest have either no access to formal finance or are borrowing from moneylenders. This, she said, should make us lose our sleep.

Highlighting an instance from her own childhood when financial difficulties proved to be a hindrance, Fernandes, who lived in a South Goan village, recalled that she was not the brightest student and never stood first in life. However, she said, there were two girls in her class who were so much better than her in every way she could imagine. But after a few years ago she got to know that they had fallen off the grid because they had no way to finance their education.

“This made me realise that this is the situation faced by many across India. If only the families of those girls had access to finance they would have probably completed their education and we would had two more women on this stage today,” said Fernandes, adding that whenever a family goes through financial crisis their first reaction is to pull their children out of school and send them to the workforce. “In most cases it is the girl who is pulled out of school and when we stop education of the girlchild we stop educating the family. It is these type of individuals, families and business that we reach out through the 100 of institutional partnerships that we have built over the last decade at Northern Arc Capital ,” said Fernandes.

Fernandes further stated that access to finance is empowering, used widely it gives people the ability to take control of their lives and shape their destiny and their future. And that is why it is very important to create financial access. However, said Fernandes, it does not mean they lend for free. “A modest person with dignity does not want anything for free. Just because a person is poor it does not mean they are unworthy, and have no self-respect. The truth is the most financially excluded people actually return charity. If we want to help, we need to teach people how to fish rather than giving them a fish for free. That would be a sustainable solution to a financial inclusion problem,” said Fernandes.

She added that there is a need for more people to join the movement for change. “We need many more youngsters to join this movement of changing the world for poor along with us. And we need a lot more Goans coming into this field and that is something we should work for,” she said.