Bangalore: Microfinance institution Janalakshmi Financial Services Pvt. Ltd (JFS) and Manipal Global Education Services formally launched the Janalakshmi Manipal Institute of Financial Inclusion on Monday, which will train the microlender’s employees to provide banking services to the urban poor.

The three-week residential programme will be held in Bangalore in Karnataka, Pune in Maharashtra and Jaipur in Rajasthan. After the programme, the candidates will be eligible for a certificate in basic inclusive financial services.

The three week programme will initially be open to about 1,000 employees of Janalakshmi, which employs 2,500 people, many of whom are from among the target customers of the lender, said Ramesh Ramanathan, chairman of JFS.

Ramanathan said the programme is only the first step in what Janalakshmi plans to do. He said he will be announcing details of what he called a “naukri, degree and makaan (job, education and house)" programme. Under this, a person who has studied up to the 12th standard could join Janalakshmi, which would give him or her a loan to earn a basic degree while working at the firm.

JFS has this year disbursed loans of more than 1,000 crore. The company expects to have a loan portfolio of about 10,000 crore in the next four-five years, said V.S. Radhakrishnan, chief executive officer and managing director of the microlender.

Extending the reach of banking services to the fast-growing urban poor in India, many of whom work in the informal sector, has long been debated in government and academic circles. They reside in the nearly 8,000 areas that the 2011 Census classifies as urban areas.

Housing and urban poverty alleviation minister Ajay Maken, who inaugurated the institute, said the importance of urban areas could be gauged by the fact that a mere 31% of the population of the country contributes more than 60% of its gross domestic product.

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