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Romi Bhatia

Microfinance Whiz Romi Bhatia of Microfinance International Corporation

While the idea of microfinance has become widely popularized after Professor Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year, many people and organizations have been utilizing this financial philosophy for years. Take Khushwant ‘Romi’ Bhatia of Microfinance International Corporation (MFIC): after obtaining undergraduate and post-graduate degrees at UC Berkeley and the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs, Romi put his relevant educational foundation to use by contributing towards the vision of the MFIC organization. To those unfamiliar, Microfinance is the practice of providing financial services to the poor Specifically, MFIC aims to assist both unbanked, immigrant families in the United States and their relatives living abroad. To this day, MFIC has expanded to conduct operations in 10 Latin American countries and plans to begin money transfers to Asia in 2007. In the United States alone, MFIC has lent over $1.5 million in small consumer loans to over 1,300 low-income immigrants. Perhaps what sets MFIC apart from the rest is the organization’s multi-faceted approach to uplifting poor immigrants. The organization is determined to offer financial services to poor families who have too often been neglected by their formal financial sectors. Accordingly, MFIC strives to help immigrants provide their families back home with the financial assistance to purchase homes or acquire affordable health insurance. MFIC looks to the greater picture – one where the immigrant life isn’t limited to the ground one lives and works upon. Take a moment to ponder Romi’s advice about the power of introspection and learn more about his role at MFIC as we feature him in this week’s Non-Profit Spotlight.


Microfinance International Corporation (MFIC)


June 2003


www.mfi-corp.com US retail financial branches: www.alantefinancial.com


Khushwant ‘Romi’ Bhatia




New Delhi, India and San Jose, California

Current residence

Rockville, MD


Columbia School of International and Public Affairs, International Finance and Business, 2004

University of California, Berkeley, Political Economy of Industrialized Societies, 2000

De Anza College, Political Science, 1998

Work Experience

Microfinance International Corporation – Washington DC, Senior Microfinance Loan Officer, July 2004 – present

United Nations Development Program, Sub-regional Resource Facility (SURF) -Trinidad & Tobago, Consultant, June 2003 – August 2004

Swayam Krishi Sangam (SKS) – Hyderbad, India, Fulbright Scholar, November 2001 – July 2002

Grameen Foundation USA – Washington DC, John Gardner Fellow, September 2000 – August 2001



About the Organization

Microfinance International Corp started with an innovative approach of leveraging remittances with microfinance to serve unbanked, immigrant families in the United States and their relatives aboard. MFIC is also committed to providing necessary capital and technical assistance to enhance the operations of its partners, microfinance institutions throughout Latin America which are predominantly non-profit organizations serving the poor.

Most notable milestones

In June 2004, MFIC began its first remittances to El Salvador. Since then, MFIC has expanded remittance operations to 10 countries in Latin America and will begin money transfers to Asia in 2007.

In U.S. operations, MFIC has lent over $2.0 million in small consumer loans to over 1,800 low-income immigrants, a majority of whom have previously lacked a credit history in the U.S. To serve the unmet demand for credit, MFIC launched small, business loans to immigrant entrepreneurs in June 2006 and in August 2006, MFIC initiated mortgage brokering services to assist low-income immigrants purchase and/or refinance their homes.

In August 2006, MFIC also closed its first transnational loans; loans to assist immigrants and their family members in their home countries finance the purchase of a home and/or acquisition of land. This is a rapidly becoming a very popular product and has a very important benefit of enabling the poor to build assets. MFIC will also begin offering affordable health insurance to immigrants and their relatives in their home countries. All of these products are part of a concerted effort by MFIC to offer financial services to poor families who have too often been neglected by the formal financial sector.

What’s the niche?

As an institution, we have a very innovative approach to serving unbanked, transnational families. We recognize that to effectively uplift the poor immigrants, we need to address their financial needs both in the U.S. and their home countries.

We are a multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multi-faceted company. This wonderful diversity of our team and synergy of experiences, expertise and thought help us to work toward our mission of impacting the lives of our clients and making a lasting mark in the field of microfinance.

What’s the biggest challenge?

The foremost challenge is to achieve a high level of productivity through efficient operations, high caliber and a dedicated team of employees excited by the mission of MFIC so that we can become a profitable financial institution.

Thereafter with profitability insight, anything is possible in terms of products and services that we can offer and the scale that we can grow to.

What’s in store for the future?

A wide array of financial product and services; exciting partnerships with local and international organizations or institutions; lots of growth and expansion to Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Who would you like to be contacted by?

I am delighted to converse with anyone with an interest in microfinance and more broadly the field of development finance. I am very passionate about microfinance and believe that this field will continue to evolve and develop innovative practices, which only come about their open dialogue and knowledge sharing. Having accumulated both non-profit and for-profit experience, I am not limited in my thinking to the range of possibilities of what each sector can do, all with the ultimate objective of uplifting the millions of poor living in abject poverty. I am happy to share my experiences and eager to learn from others.

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Best way to keep a competitive edge

Two-fold: a mindset of continuous learning and improving with determination and a tremendous work ethic.

Guiding principle in life

Have a moral compass – carry one’s self with integrity in all that one does and be mindful of the consequences of one’s action on others. Be consistent in thought and actions. I try to give more than I receive.

Yardstick of success

Have my thoughts, ideas or actions made a positive impact on my family, friends and greater community.

Goal yet to be achieved

Countless goals to be achieved and yet countless more to be determined.

Best practical advice

Take time to do some real introspection – reflect on what drives you; what gives you great satisfaction both professionally and personally; what and who you care about the most; and if you only had 24 hours to live, how you would spend that time?

Now, prioritize your goals and begin living the rest of your life.

Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture

Praise for my persistence and dedication to microfinance work. Realizing that life can be fleeting – reminders for me to appreciate all that I have.


Dr. Muhammad Yunus (of Grameen Bank) for his vision, his passion for microfinance work and his humility.

Vikram Akula (of SKS) for his dedication, intellect and willingness to take risks.

Professor Darren Zook (of UCB) for introducing me to micro-credit back in 1999 and encouraging me to apply for the Fulbright Scholarship.

What motivated you to get started?

Dr. Muhammad Yunus and the achievements of the Grameen Bank

Like best about what you do?

The excitement of international development work – all the innovative ideas and practices evolving in the field of microfinance; learning new languages and about unfamiliar cultures.

What would you do more if you had the opportunity?

I would like to teach more and provide more financial education to low-income individuals so that they are empowered to change their lives and not remain in financial insecurity.

At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?

No clue. At age 15 however, I wanted to become a sports journalist.

What was your first job?

Foriegn Correspondent/Local Sportswriter for the Morgan Hill Times

Biggest pastime outside of work

Sports. I love the outdoors. It hardly matters what sport or activity it is.

Person most interested in meeting

Bill Clinton. An incredibly bright individual whose had his transgressions but has rebounded and is motivated to do good.

Muhammad Ali. Incredible athlete but importantly, an incredible ambassador for mankind.

Leader in business most interested in meeting

Steve Jobs

Three interesting facts about yourself

1. I belong to the Sikh Faith.
2. I was an exchange student to Berlin, Germany.
3. I speak five languages and hope to learn more.

Three characteristics that describe you

1. Open-minded
2. Giving
3. Loyal

Three greatest passions

1. Microfinance
2. Outdoors sports
3. Music

Favorite book

Tough Call: I have to list my Top 3 (in no particular order)

“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho
“Banker to the Poor” by Dr. Muhammad Yunus
“Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini

Favorite cause

Donating and working for hunger and poverty issues both locally and internationally.

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Interview by Saba Nasser
Introduction by Rupa Dev
Edited by Valerie Enriquez

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