Hero Cycles and Muthoot Microfin have announced a strategic partnership to provide bicycles to low-income households and micro-entrepreneurs, especially women, in South India. This long-term partnership is aimed at making bicycles easily accessible to poorer households through the availability of microfinance facilities. Under the scheme, Hero Cycles has made separate bicycle models available for women and men.

Muthoot Microfin, one of the largest microfinance companies in the country, is focused on providing micro loans to women entrepreneurs in rural regions of India. Through this new arrangement, Muthoot Microfin’s 600,000+ clients across 150+ branches in Tamil Nadu will have access to affordable mobility through Hero Cycles.

According to the organisations, bicycle ownership can make a major difference in the lives of households living below poverty line by enabling people to easily venture out over longer distances and making travel affordable. Bicycle accessibility has also shown to improve enrolment of girls and attendance in schools. A study undertaken by TERI and All India Cycle Manufacturers’ Association estimated that for marginal unskilled workers who walk to work every day, a 50 per cent substitution of walking trips above the average distance of 3.5 km can result in travel-time savings worth Rs 112 billion.

The Hero Cycles spokesperson informs CauseBecause that among Muthoot’s customers, bicycle is a direct livelihood product which increases livelihood of the family by approximately 30 per cent. Providing small EMI loans makes it affordable to marginalised people, who can then increase their earnings and reduce cost on transportation. The target number of bicycles to be distributed hasn’t been fixed but will evolve with time. Timeline for completing the distribution wasn’t confirmed by the company.

In a press release shared with CB, Pankaj M Munjal, chairman and managing director, HMC, a Hero Motors Company, said, ‘Bicycles are often an underrated yet powerful tool of empowerment for the marginalised. Making bicycles easily accessible to a large number of people can bring about significant improvement in the state of their livelihoods and earnings. Unfortunately, gathering enough money to spend on buying a bicycle remains a challenge for a large number of households despite it being the most affordable mode of transport. Providing microfinance is therefore one of the most viable ways to increase penetration of bicycles among the rural and urban poor. For micro entrepreneurs, owning a bicycle can boost their earnings by expanding their catchment areas for work.’