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Vittana News, Updates, Announcements and Discussion Empty Vittana: Introduction, About, How it Works

Post by Tigger34 Thu Mar 31, 2011 1:02 pm

Vittana: (From the Vittana website) ]

Our Mission Statement: ”Our mission is to help young people around the world get access to higher education for the first time.”

The Problem: “When it comes to education, traditional aid and development have always been about literacy and primary school. Today, because of these and other efforts, an entire generation of young people is finishing basic education and hoping to do more.”

“However, because no one’s thought about higher education, these amazing, inspiring young adults are being led off a cliff. Despite the enormous investments of time and aid money so far, they’re ending up stuck in the same place as their parents. It's hard to believe, but in most developing countries, loans for college or vocational school simply don't exist.”

Our Idea: “We see this as the “last mile” of education: if you can get someone just $700 more and keep them in school for just 6-12 months more, you can instantly make good on the previous 18 years of investment. If that sounds too good to be true, consider an American analogy: a high school graduate might make $8/hour but a vocationally-educated electrician might earn $33/hour. Vittana graduates earn 200-300% of their previous income — that is, about $18/day vs. $6/day.”

“Vittana builds some of the world's first college loan programs in developing countries. You can imagine how hard this is: no IRS, no credit bureaus, no school accreditation. Over the last two years, we've developed the beginnings of a strong model to bring student loans to developing countries. ……….”

“This can once and for all completely break the cycle of poverty in a family. Consider not only how a Vittana graduate’s life changes, but also consider everyone else around them. Imagine how different the default life trajectory is for the daughter of someone selling trinkets for a living vs. the daughter of a college-educated nurse. ……….”

“In collaboration with microfinance organizations around the world, Vittana has developed and proven the foundations of a model to bring student loans to developing countries. The expertise and engine to develop strong, successful student loan programs is one of our biggest contributions to the field of microfinance.”

“Broadly, here are some of the things we know that make this student loan model successful:

  • vocational education or last 2-3 semesters of college. Although we know that 4-year college produces higher earning potential for students, there is a much higher drop-out risk associated with students with several years of education remaining. Focusing on vocational education and the final year of college enables students to earn significantly higher wages (200-300% more than before) while also minimizing that risk.
  • children or close relatives of current microfinance borrowers. Families who have been able to access microfinance loans and built micro-enterprises tend to have an economic and life foundation that allows the next generation to think about higher education and be well-prepared to handle the responsibilities of credit.
  • mother or close relative as a co-signer. Unlike traditional microfinance, where loans are often made to a close-knit group of women who promise to guarantee each other's loans, there is no long-term cohort of students that can do this for college loans: students are often more mobile, often leaving their hometowns to attend college and then leaving college to get a job. Having the student's mother (or other close relative) serve as a co-signer is one way to establish accountability for repayment.
  • interest-only grace period. In countries where there is no IRS or credit bureau, giving a student a loan and asking him to return after he's graduated 12 months later will not yield high repayment rates. Although neither the Vittana organization nor Vittana lenders charge interest, our microfinance partners do charge a low interest rate. During the educational grace period, our local microfinance partner charges a small interest-only monthly repayment. This monthly repayment helps the student develop a regular repayment habit and enables our microfinance partner to regularly follow up with the student to ensure good progress.

When Vittana identifies an innovative microfinance organization that is interested in providing student loans to its customers, we work closely with the organization to develop the new product, create eligibility and follow-up criteria, train staff, and bring the product to a fully operational status. It usually takes us 3-6 months to bring student loans into a new city or country.”

There is much more information on the Vittana website at the following links:

Note: Vittana currently partners with MFIs in Paraguay (Fundacion Paraguaya), Peru (EDAPROSPO), Pillipines (Negroes Women for Tomorrow Foundation), Bolivia (Educa Pro), Honduras (Fundacion CREHO), Mongolia (XacBank), Vietnam (Binh Minh), and Nicaragua (AFODENIC). (I hope I did not miss any.)

Vittana is currently working on establishing partnerships with additional MFIs in Africa, Asia, Central America and South America.

Find students here:

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Post by Tigger34 Mon Apr 04, 2011 9:56 am

Vittana's Partnership Team members, Nick Cain and Sanjaya Punyasena, are traveling in Asia, Latin America and Africa visiting 11 countries and meeting with more than 55 microfinance organizations, banks and universities in our quest to continue bringing student lending to the developing world. Link to an interview with Nick Cain and Sanjaya Punyasena here:

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Post by Tigger34 Fri May 06, 2011 8:56 pm

Vittana Wins "Best Nonprofit" at Seattle 2.0 and Celebrates Second Birthday
By Katie Gruver
Published: May 6, 2011

The excitement level is through the roof here at Vittana! And there are three very good reasons for our more-than-usual boisterousness.

1. Last night, Vittana won best non-profit start-up at the Seattle 2.0 Awards. Seattle is known worldwide for its innovative start-up community, and we’re excited and humbled to be a part of it.

But that’s not the only great news we have to share!

2. April was our biggest month ever! Our amazing community lent more than $60,000 to more than 60 students. (Special thanks to the good folks at BEAN for their amazing support this month.)

3. And, as icing on the cake, it’s our birthday! This week, we’re celebrating the Vittana website’s second birthday. To date, our community is 5,433 strong. Individuals from 47 countries have lent more than $660,875.

Together, we’ve empowered almost 1,000 students around the world with access to education.

We want to thank our amazing team, our board, our advisors, our volunteers and our fantastic fellows for all of their hard work and tenacity in helping us reach these goals. But moreover, we want to thank our lenders, donors, supporters, and cheerleaders. We just couldn’t have done this without you. It’s thanks to your support that we’re setting our sights even higher in the weeks and months ahead!

Here’s to another great year!

Posted to Vittana's blog:

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Post by Tigger34 Mon May 16, 2011 1:42 pm

From: TechFlash, Seattle’s Technology News Source: Venture Blog

Vittana CEO Kushal Chakrabarti: “Education is the most powerful way of fighting global poverty.”
Kushal Chakrabarti believes in the power of education to break the cycle of poverty. The former Amazon software engineer is the CEO and co-founder of Vittana, a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding education in developing countries through microloans. Through Vittana's website, donors can select a student, make an interest-free loan (though Vittana's microfinance partners do charge a low interest rate) and, when the student graduates, they pay the loan back in full. The company, which was voted 'Best Nonprofit Startup' at the recent Seattle 2.0 Awards, says it has a 99 percent repayment rate and has helped 1,000 students in eight countries finish their education. I chatted with Chakrabarti about the young startup and how microfinance could fundamentally alter the trajectory of a student's life.

Why did you choose the microfinance model? "(Microfinance) is a fundamentally more scalable and sustainable model than scholarships, which is what education funding has always been historically. The invention of microfinance (by) Muhammad Yunus won him the Nobel (Peace) Prize about five years ago now for this work. The fundamental point was that, for the first time, he made charity sustainable. People have been giving money to the poor since the beginning, but for the first time ever it was sustainable. So we're building off of his innovation and this is fundamentally about scalable, sustainable ways of providing access to education."

How did you get your start? "It's been an amazing journey. When Vittana was first founded three years ago, I was literally laughed out of meetings (with people saying) that this will never work. 'What do you know about microfinance?' (they said). 'The students, the young people, they'll never graduate, they'll never repay it, they're not trustworthy.' And I think in three years what we've really done is answered that 'No, young people are trustworthy, young people will graduate. Yes, they will repay it.' And not only will these loans get repaid, but education is the single most powerful way of fighting global poverty... The average income change, after students get the Vittana loans and graduate, they earn on average about three times their previous income. So they go from (earning) about $3 - $4 per day to any where from $8 - $13 a day."

How do students repay their loans and are you always successful? "We have a 99 percent repayment rate. That's a really interesting contrast against the United States, where loan repayment rates are sub-50 percent and I think it goes back to this point that in the countries we work in -- Peru, Vietnam, Mongolia, the Philippines, India -- there is no other chance. This is your one shot and none of our students are ever going to take that for granted. They know that this is their one shot and if they don't grab it, they're never going to get it back. And it's amazing how much a $350 loan can do. ……….”

Please go to the following link to read the entire (interesting) interview:

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Post by Tigger34 Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:45 am

HuffPost Greatest Person Of The Day: Kushal Chakrabarti and
Vittana Revolutionize Student Loans

By Lucs Kavner, June 13, 2011

When L.A. native and Vittana
founder Kushal Chakrabarti speaks, he tries to jam his many big thoughts into
very short sentences. A computer science class he took at the University of
California, Berkeley was "intoxicating," the potential for worldwide
optimism is "endless," and he describes education as his "life's
calling." But this is all part of what makes this young idea-maker tick.

He was only a few years out of Berkeley and working in tech development at
Amazon -- a company he credits for sparking his entrepreneurial drive -- when a
New York Times article about a rickshaw driver in India caught his eye
and set him off on a mission. "This guy was spending 30 percent of his
income to send his kids to school," Kushal remembered. "A person can
have one of two reactions to that. The first, is 'Wow! That guy's amazing!' But
the second is, 'Yes, this guy's amazing, but how many others are falling
through the cracks because they can't afford school for their kids?'"

Kushal's own parents were first generation immigrants. His father had
studied engineering in Bangladesh and came to the U.S. with $70 in his pocket.
His mother had come from India. "Education was the one thing they
had," he said. "They had no money, they had nothing. But they had

The Times' article, and the ensuing ideas that popped into Kushal's
head, inspired him to leave his job and lay the groundwork for a new organization
-- one that would arrange student loans for kids in poverty-stricken countries,
where such programs are rarely available. Kushal called up everyone he could
think of to ask for advice: friends from school, contacts he'd met through
Amazon and others. He said he was "laughed out" of a few rooms. There's
no way kids in third world countries will repay loans, some said. How will you
keep track of them? Many were skeptical, but Kushal soldiered on. "I
wanted to prove that even the poorest young people are bankable, they're
credit-worthy," he said. "Not only will they repay you, not only are
they reliable, but this money will change their lives forever."

In the ensuing year, Kushal ventured off to Vittana's pilot countries of
Peru and Paraguay and interviewed close to a hundred families with students
looking to go into vocational crafts -- potential teachers, welders, nurses,
administrators and builders among others. "What was so amazing was how
hard these parents were working to help their kids," he said. "You
ask any of them why they work so hard, and all of them have the exact same
answer: I want my kids to finish school, to get a job, to have a better chance
at life than I did. That's the one universal constant on the planet."

Vittana partnered with local microfinance institutions in the countries to
help arrange loans. The money donated would go directly to the student, who
then had 3 years to pay the lenders back, with no interest. Kushal had no idea
if any of this would work, if anyone would put their faith in the system he
created. But within the first 30 hours of Vittana's launch, every single
student on the site had been paid for. "Fully funded," Kushal said.

Since 2008, Kushal and Vittana have helped a 1,000 students in 11 countries
finish school. Last year they partnered with the Clinton Global Initiative, and
in the next six months, the organization plans to take on another 4,000
students and expand to Africa and the Middle East. Incredibly, 99 percent of
Vittana's partnering students repay their loans in full, and many of them start
saving up while they're still in school, beginning the repayment process before
they've even landed jobs. "It's mindblowing," Kushal said. "And
after a Vittana loan, on average, their income triples. In Asia, they go from
making an average of three dollars a day to at least eight dollars a day."

Kushal, who said he was "kind of a jackass" in high school, was
never the greatest student. "People were much smarter than me," he
said. "But I'm creative and I work really, really hard. That's all you
need to do something meaningful."

Head to Vittana, pick a
student, put them through school. It's that simple.

Read full article at this link:

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