Reni Rusmiati’s Indonesian tofu production factory had all the makings of a successful business: tasty food that cultivated a following, and Rusmiati herself, a dedicated entrepreneur with talent and enthusiasm.
But in 2015, when Rusmiati ran out of beans—and ran into trouble finding capital that would allow her to keep cooking the tofu that her customers clamored for—she thought that the factory’s days were numbered.
The missing ingredient? Credit. It was hard for a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) owner to access financing, especially if that owner was a woman. This is true despite the fact that many small businesses in Indonesia, as in much of the developing world, are run by women.
Seeing this gap between the need and the potential of women entrepreneurs in Indonesia, BTPN Syariah Bank created programs specifically tailored to Indonesian women borrowers like Rusmiati. In addition to financing and services like digital banking to remote communities, the bank focuses on providing extensive non-financial services such as training in e-commerce and business skills. BTPN Syariah is owned by BTPN, an IFC client.
Nine years after the bank’s founding, it supports 3.2 million women borrowers across Indonesia. Rusmiati became one of those customers when BTPN Syariah Bank came through with her first loan. With the bank’s support she was able to establish a factory, and since then she has gone back several times for loans to keep building her business. “BTPN Syariah Bank really helped me,” she says.
IFC’s support to BTPN Syariah Bank included refining and strengthening its non-financial services to customers, a project undertaken alongside in-depth training for bank staff. IFC provided guidance on business networking, training for bank employees in the use of digital and social marketing tools, and development of mechanism to measure results. Notably, IFC also helped the bank launch Daya.id, a web-based platform that combines all non-financial service offerings on a single site, strengthening the outreach and efficiency of the bank’s delivery of services to clients.
Integrating a Social Mission into Finance
Supporting micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) with advisory services and financing in emerging markets like Indonesia is crucial because they serve as an engine for growth and job creation. According to an IFC study, the MSME financing gap in the country is $11 billion annually. Women-owned MSMEs, like Rusmiati’s tofu factory, face great challenges accessing bank loans. These enterprises contribute to job creation as well as 9 percent of GDP growth, but when it comes to bank loans, the women’s businesses tend to be treated differently than men’s.
Although BTPN Syariah directs many of its efforts toward women, it serves millions of low-income families in Indonesia and has more than 5 million financing customers. The sharia commercial bank is the only bank in Indonesia that works to acquire funds from high-income families to be channeled to clients in the informal sector who have the potential to build a small enterprise.
To deliver the products and services to its customers, BTPN Bank recruits young women bankers who are high school graduates. The bank then trains them to fill customer-facing field positions. These new bankers meet with customers in their homes and shops and teach them business management skills, and then convene in a local bank office which doubles as a dormitory.
This employment opportunity is a breakthrough for female high school graduates in Indonesia, who have traditionally had more limited options than university graduates. Women now make up more than 97 percent of BTPN Syariah’s 10,500 employees.
The bank’s new web platform, Daya, is another original solution to the challenge of including women in the banking sector and increasing women clients’ access to financial services. Daya consists of articles and videos on business and health, success stories, and e-commerce ideas. It also provides online consultations in business, digital marketing, and financial planning, as well as options for business franchises. IFC guided the bank on sending daily information and tips via Whatsapp and other digital services to clients and staff, along with recommendations on compiling regular electronic updates on industry trends, government policies, and customized information.
Its efforts to shrink the credit gap for a broad range of women-owned SMEs have been widely recognized. For improving the capacity of commercial banks to better serve women-owned SMEs with financial and business development services, BTPN Syariah has received The Best Islamic Banking for SME Bank from the Global Islamic Finance Award.
This article was originally published on IFC.