VittanaVittana was born out of the belief that education is about connecting people to opportunity.

In the developing world many young people are earning from $3 to $5 per day and can’t afford to put themselves through school. Vittana created the first student microloan program, which connects students with funders willing to loan them money. Now anyone with as little as $25 can support the education of a student studying to be anything from a welder to a chef in one of 12 countries, said Vittana founder Kushal Chakrabarti.

Backed by a network of tech gurus from Amazon and Google, Vittana is applying an entrepreneurial mindset to education. The organization has seen the success of online lending platforms such as Kiva, and realizes that individuals want to feel connected to a cause. “They don’t want to just write a check and see it disappear,” Chakrabarti said. “They don’t want to go to a gala once a year either.”

Those who make loans want to see their money help another individual better their lives.

The idea is working: In October alone over $250,000 was lent to students, with an average loan size of $730. A loan is made from anywhere from nine months to three years, which would then be paid back after the student graduates and gets a job. “The repayment is really important to the lender,” said Chakrabarti. “Not because they want the money. But because there is no better proof the model works.”

Once paid back the money can be loaned again and again, multiplying the impact.

At a recent event in New York City, Chakrabarti asked a room full of individuals about how education has impacted them. There were several who were the first in their families to graduate from college. Some gathered that night had grown up abroad and knew the value of the free educations they were given. Others had parents who were teachers or professors. All had vivid memories of the effect school and teachers had on their lives.

The brilliance of Vittana is that everyone whether in the developed or the developing world has some connection to education. That’s the first step. If a lender can find common ground with those in need, they are more likely to lend--and lend, and lend.


(Photo © DR)