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Chit Funds as an Innovative Access to Finance for Low-income Households

Mudit Kapoor (), Antoinette Schoar (), Preethi Rao and Sharon Buteau

Review of Market Integration, 2011, vol. 3, issue 3, 287-333

Abstract: Chit Funds are indigenous financial institutions in India that combines credit and savings in a single scheme. In a chit fund scheme, a group of individuals come together for a predetermined time period and contribute to a common pool at regular intervals. In order to understand the intricacies of the chit fund model in India, we studied the size of the registered chit fund industry and how it serves the members. We find that the money circulated in the registered chit fund industry ranges from 10 per cent to 50 per cent of bank finance when compared to the total deposits and credits in the bank. The number of chit schemes registered has been reducing over the years. The average percentage change in the number of schemes registered from 2003 to 2006 is approximately a negative 10 per cent. While the number of schemes has reduced, the total value of registered chit schemes increased by approximately 13 per cent from 2003 to 2006. Our survey of the chit fund members shows that as much as 72 per cent of the members participate in chit funds for saving. Additionally, 96 per cent of the current and non-current chit fund members think that chit funds are safe. Majority of the current and non-current chit fund members belong to low-income households. Our study also suggests that the institutional arrangements which govern the functioning of the chit scheme that have emerged seem to serve the interest of all participants irrespective of their socio-economic status. Perhaps, this could explain why this industry has survived for such a long period of time. Our findings point to the fact that though chit funds are an important source of finance for small businesses and low-income households in India, there has been a general exodus of low value chit schemes from the registered chit fund market. This is mainly because registered chit funds find it less lucrative to serve the poor due to the increased cost of operating such schemes imposed by the regulators. We find that the chit fund industry addresses the savings needs of people, is considered very safe and also offers loans at lower interest rates than moneylenders.

Keywords: Chit Funds; financial inclusion; rotating savings and credit associations (ROSCAs); financial institutions; poverty alleviation; economics; India (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2011
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