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Helping Indian households finance their water and sanitation needs through microlending services

  • Company
  • Water & Sanitation
  • India
  • 2011
  • Exited

The challenge

Over 2.5 billion people suffer from a lack of access to improved sanitation globally.

According to a 2008 report released by the World Health Organization, seventy-five percent of India’s surface water is contaminated by human and agricultural waste and industrial effluent. This contaminated water supply results in life-threatening illness.

Lost productivity and other consequences of unsanitary water and inadequate sewage treatment have significant negative effects on GDP.

The innovation

Gramalaya Urban And Rural Development Initiatives And Network (GUARDIAN) is the world’s first microfinance institution (MFI) engaged in microlending to households to purchase individual water and sanitation assets. These include connections to municipal water supply, toilet construction, rainwater harvesting equipment, and household water purifiers.

The company lends to members of existing women’s self-help groups, each with up to fifteen members, and to five-member joint-liability groups that they help form.

Because of grant support from, GUARDIAN was founded as a spin-off of Indian NGO, Gramalaya.

The impact

GUARDIAN has made more than 30,000 loans with a 99.99% repayment rate.

Acumen’s patient capital is playing a critical role in helping GUARDIAN build its portfolio and transition from a partially grant-funded NGO to a fully self-sustaining MFI capable of accessing larger loans from Indian banks for further scale-up.