SARD launched the Tibetan Refugee Livelihood Support Program (TRLSP) in 2017 to support the Winter Sweater Selling (WSS) business which is the main livelihood and income source for 45% of Tibetan refugee households in India. Soft loan of 1 lakh each with an interest rate of 3% for six months was provided to to a total of 913 WSS businesses across India covering over 90 different locations in India. 100% of the funds were returned and before the six-month deadline. For the CTA, this was the most extensive lending financial service ever provided during the last fifty years in exile.
To understand and record the experiences, outcomes, and key lessons learnt from TRLSP, the report entitled A Microfinance Success Story of Tibetan Refugees in India was prepared between December 2017 to January 2018 and provides a comprehensive picture of the existing status of the WWS trade and its corresponding livelihoods structure.
The report’s key findings include:
Almost 45% of the Tibetan refugee community are engaged in the WSS trade. There are over 120 Tibetan hosiery markets across India and many more markets are set up each year
WSS traders procure all hosiery items directly from the producers bypassing all intermediarie. Tibetan traders travel out from their Settlements to arrive in end-June/July to Ludhiana, the largest hosiery and knitwear manufacturing hub and wholesale market in India and negotiate purchase with small manufacturer-wholesalers called Lalas. 70% of the purchase is on credit.
The WSS seasonal markets are strategically located where population movements are the biggest such as old business districts, railway stations and bus terminals. Season last for 3-5 months usually between September to February
The total sale in a season by an average WSS family ranges from Rs. 7 to 10 lakhs.
TRLSP has helped to enhance the bargaining power of the smaller business both at the buying and selling of their product. With the instant payment in cash, the smaller businesses have gained bargaining power to get better quality and more fashionable product for their small stalls. However, for many borrowers and WSS the current loan amount of Rs. 1,00,000 was too small to make any significant difference. Financial products and processes will have to be designed by looking not just at WSS but by looking holistically at all other aspects of the TR livelihood (agriculture, summer garment sale stalls and shops, summer general stores). The complete report can be downloaded here