How Amartha is tackling Indonesia’s financial inclusion problem
Indonesia was recently re-ranked by the World Bank as an upper middle-income country, even though as many as 100 million Indonesians remain unbanked. Andi Taufan Garuda Putra tells Asiamoney how his Amartha microlending platform is bringing them into the financial system.
Indonesians are famous for their subtle culture, but unusually blunt when it comes to the predatory moneylenders who prey on villagers across the archipelago. In Indonesia, loan sharks are known as lintah darat, which translates as 'land leeches' or 'bloodsuckers'.
It is easy to see why. In the kampungs, or villages, lintah darat are a pernicious presence; blinged-up, 30-something men who operate in pairs, mounted on motorcycles, which they use for a quick getaway when things turn nasty or as revving weapons of intimidation to put pressure on borrowers to honour exorbitant interest rates. Anecdotes abound of destitute debtors resorting to crime, prostitution and enslavement so that they can settle their arrears.
But an Indonesian microfinance pioneer seems to have found an antidote to loan sharks, and it is a simple one: trust. Andi Taufan Garuda Putra’s Amartha.com (the name evokes ‘continuous life’ in the ancient Sanskrit that influences regional languages) aims to empower the very communities targeted by the loan sharks by providing Indonesian villagers, particularly women, with zero-collateral loans at minimal interest while helping to create sustainable business models for the future.
And after 13 years of lending, Taufan says, these communities have gained confidence in his platform and no longer need to turn to the leeches.