Dr. P.V. Viswanath



Economics/Finance on the Web
Student Interest

  Courses / FIN 680V/FIN 360  

FIN 680V/ FIN 360:
The Practice of Microfinance in India, Spring 2014 (Tentative)

To indicate interest and sign up for updates, please email Prof. Viswanath. For information about the Spring 2012 microfinance-based India trip, click here.

Course Objectives

The primary objective of this course is to provide the student with an introduction to the practice of microfinance in India. In order to prepare the student to understand how microfinance is practiced in India, the course will also provide the student with an introduction to the Indian economy and to relevant issues in economic development.

Students will learn about the economics of microfinance; both the concepts and the practice of this revolutionary technique that has changed the life of many poor families in developing countries and which has earned its originator, Muhammad Yunus, a Nobel Prize. 

In our trip to India, we will visit microfinance institutions (MFIs) in Kerala and Mumbai. In Kerala, we will visit MFIs in Thrissur, Palakkad and Ernakulam; in Mumbai, we will visit several microfinance institutions involved in microsavings, microcredit and micromortgages. In several of these MFIs, students will also participate in a hands-on project to give them a feel for what microfinance is and what it entails.

Course Texts

Required Text:
Reading materials will be provided on Blackboard in the Documents section.
Beatriz Armendariz and Jonathan Morduch, Economics of Microfinance, MIT Press, 2010.
Collins, Morduch, Rutherford and Ruthven, Portfolios of the Poor, Princeton University Press, 2009.

Tentative Itinerary









Group Leaves for Kochi in the evening

Arrive late night at Hotel

Kochi sightseeing/relaxation, leave for Thrissur in the evening

ESAF, Thrissur

Society for Rural Improvement, Palakkad; leave for Mumbai from Coimbatore by plane; spend night in Mumbai

Visit Dharavi and other locations to learn about urban  poverty

Visit Swadhaar am
Sparc afternoon

Visit Intellecash, MCHS, evening relaxation

Cultural Visit/Relaxation

leave for the US from Mumbai

Course Requirements

There will be three kinds of course activities:

  • Online discussion
  • In-class meetings
  • Trip to various locations in Palakkad, Thrissur, Ernakulam/Kochi and Mumbai.

Participation in all three aspects of the course is required.


There will be a single exam (only for undergraduates) at the end of the term, based partly on a pre-assigned question list.

Online Discussion:

Readings will be assigned every week. Online discussion will take place using the Discussion Board on Blackboard. New topics will be assigned every week.

The Discussion Board forums are an important part of the course. You will be given articles to read and react to. At the bottom of the article, you will generally find some comments/questions at the bottom of the article; however, you should not treat these questions as requiring "answers" necessarily. Rather treat them as my thoughts and simply comment on the issues raised by the article or by the information contained in the article. Even if you are reacting to my thoughts, the structure of your posting should not in the form of an "answer" to my questions. I will deduct points if you ignore this requirement! Postings must be made according to the schedule indicated on the calendar. Do not start new threads unless you have also responded to a previous posting in an existing thread.

Postings will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Originality
  • Proper Grammar and correctness of spelling
  • Logic of arguments
  • Relating arguments to previous posts (the sequence of posts is supposed to represent a conversation -- not a set of unrelated posts of people talking past each other!).
  • Relating arguments to issues brought up in the text and on the slides.

There will be at least two Blackboard discussions. Please read everybody's posting and reply to them. Look at the discussion forum every couple of days, at least, and keep the discussion vigorous.

Written Assignments:
In addition to attendance, there will one written assignment for undergraduate students and two for graduate students.

  • Program Evaluation Project:
    • We will be working with SRI (Society for Rural Improvement) on an evaluation of one of their microfinance programs.  Before our trip, we will learn enough about their program, through printed materials and through Skype presentations from SRI personnel.  When we are in Palakkad, we will conduct some interviews of program participants and, on our return, we will write up a report for SRI.
  • Write-up on the India visit. This will consist of two components:
    • one, a general report on the trip; this report will relate the lessons learned from the visit to the issues brought up and discussed during the term. The length of this report may be from 2 to 4 pages.
    • two, specialized reports on any two of the MFIs that we will visit. These reports will discuss the particular organization visited and related issues in detail. These reports should be about one to two pages.
  • In addition to the above, graduate students will be required to work in small groups on a term paper pertaining to some aspect of microfinance. The length of this report could be anywhere from 6 to 12 pages.
    • This term paper could be either original research on microfinance in India, or a literature survey of a specific microfinance topic with special reference to India. It could also be on financial development and empowerment in India.  Alternatively, it could present a single published research paper.  It might also be a report on a microfinance institution in India.  A list of possible topics will be provided.  Each student can decide on a topic based on his/her special interests. 
    • Data used and presented must be documented by providing sources -- if the sources are websites, then the complete URL must be provided, as well as the date that the website was viewed.  I can help by providing reading material.
    • Text can be quoted from sources, but this should be done sparingly. In any case, such quotations should be set off by a paragraph or put in inverted commas. Plagiarism will not be tolerated.
    • Attention should be paid to spelling, grammar and sentence structure. Make sure that your paper has a theme and has a flow; make use of paragraphs to introduce new ideas.
    • The paper should have a title, a date and an abstract of one or two paragraphs, which will function in the nature of an executive summary.

The Students are expected to present their findings in a powerpoint presentation to the entire class during the last class session(s). (See course outline for details.) The number of slides that makes for an effective presentation in the time allotted (about 15 minutes, unless you're informed otherwise in class) is about 10-15.

    • The powerpoint slides have to be submitted for evaluation.
    • Make sure that the essence of the presentation is contained in the powerpiont slides.
    • The presentation should make sure to provide the thesis of the paper and this should be clear in the slides, as well.
    • One slide should contain one idea -- if more than one idea is presented in one slide, there should be some thematic connection. In any case, the amount of material in one slide should be limited and easily read.
    • Use bullets in your slides to present your points.

Topics to be discussed

  • Recent Indian Economic History and implications for the future
  • Indian economic development with emphasis on finance for the Bottom of the Pyramid and microfinance
  • Economic and Social history of Kerala and Mumbai
  • Introduction to Microfinance
    • Adverse Selection problems and how Joint Liability Groups can resolve those problems;
    • Moral Hazard problems and how Joint Liability Groups can resolve those problems;
    • Going beyond joint liability groups;
    • Gender and Microfinance


Your final grade will be determined as follows:


Impact on grade

Online and Class Discussion


Program Assessment Project


Post-visit reports


Term Paper and Presentation

20% (0% for undergraduates)

Final Exam

0% (20% for undergraduates)

Note that the minimum and maximum quantitative scores for plus and minus refinements to the letter grades will be at my discretion. These will be partly determined by the distribution of student scores within each letter grade category.   I place a high value on effort; at my discretion, I will raise your grade one notch if I feel that you have tried hard to satisfy all the requirements of the course.