We stroll carefully on the unpaved road, passing a huge market. The place is buzzing with mainly food stalls, small M-Pesa agent hunts and clothing stalls. Business is a little slow despite that the pedestrians are rushing by quickly but skilfully to avoid muddy potholes on the road and to dodge other pedestrians. “HONK!” A loud car horn blasted through my ears, accompanied by loud Jamaican/rock music. I am right in the middle of a matatu park, I almost missed that fact as I concentrated to thread quickly and carefully behind Alan, my loan office for the day. I need to follow him closely as we need to meet a client.
Alan pointed out a potato wholesale market to me, not far after leaving the matatu park. Sacks of potatoes are stacked up carefully on both sides of the narrow alley. The traders are happy greeting me with “How Are you ?” and big smiles. Amazed with the greetings and with the sight of a wholesale market, we approached a onion market. Of course the two are are next to each other and of course within 10 minutes, I get to see a plastic sacks wholesale market too! Complementary products, lined side by side. Makes perfect sense !
Loan officer often visits both the client’s business location and home. Often meeting their spouse and children.
The observation almost always includes business physical condition and private home structures. Those physical characteristics often reveal the client’s priorities, both supporting the business and their family. Since the cashflow of a client’s business and family is often blurred in microfinance, it is important to review both sides of a client’s life. I guess it is not as black and white as in the western banks when one takes a business loan.
John wishes to take a second loan with Growth Africa. John makes brown sugar. Blocks and blocks of them, stored in a wooden shack at the back of his homes. He really like this storage, it has the best place to park, he unload his truck easily when the sugar blocks are processed and when he is loading it for customer delivery. John has been in this business for some time now and he knows exactly when his storage will need a good fix to prevent rain from destroying his inventory. I asked, what do your customer use the brown sugar for ? John smiled kindly and started telling me all the usage. I can clearly see how glad he is with his sales. His customers are mainly farmers, they use the brown sugar to preserve a type of grass, preserving the cows’ feed. I cherish his patience to teach me his trade.
Take 1 ends here, with a footnote, character evaluation + business potential = good screening process.
Written by Denise Tham