Vittana founder Kushal Chakrabarti was inspired 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….
"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. "Completely."
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."