Twenty years ago, we were born in the heart of Africa in Uganda as the MicroSave project. The year was 1998. The microfinance industry at the time was focused almost exclusively on microcredit, and as the name suggests, MicroSave came into being to resolve this issue.
As a first step, we drew influences from Stuart Rutherford, as well as approaches developed in the Philippines. We conducted market research with the aim to understand opportunities and problems from the customers’ perspective. This marked the start of our signature “market-led approach” to consulting, and unmasked significant problems underlying the microcredit model then prevalent in Uganda—that we set about fixing.
Until the year 2000, MicroSave focused on demand-side market research in East and Southern Africa. We trained hundreds of people from across the globe in our Market Research for MicroFinance (MR4MF) approach—a precursor to what is now known as human-centered design. After the first mid-term review, our work evolved to include both demand- and supply-sides. We worked with industry leaders to develop toolkits and training content on 35 different aspects of managing MFIs and banks.
We worked with nearly 20 leading financial service providers in East and Southern Africa to refocus their business towards a customer-centric or “market-led” approach. We helped Equity Building Society grow from 109,000 customers in Kenya into Equity Bank. The bank was listed on the stock exchange and currently serves 12 million customers across East Africa. Building on our growing work on digital finance, we also sat on Equity’s steering committee and helped with the initial testing of M-Pesa.
In 2006, the next big spurt in our growth arrived when we brought our lessons and success from Africa to India. In the next two years, we had expanded to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Nepal. We added country after country to our list. We widened the scope of our cutting-edge knowledge and advice to a diverse set of players. In the years to follow, we opened new sectors and services to include digital financial services, finance for energy, housing, water and sanitation, among others—all with a focus on low-income people.
From 2013, MicroSave started shaping digital inclusion, government to person (G2P) payments and social inclusion landscape in India. We started by preparing an approach to assess the readiness of districts for delivering G2P payments. This helped the government in prioritizing the launch of G2P programs. We worked on the rural employment guarantee program (MGNREGA), social pension programs, LPG subsidy, food subsidy, kerosene subsidy, fertilizer subsidy, among others.
Our work over the years benefits about 850 million people, with an annual subsidy outflow of about USD 71 billion. We also worked on the largest financial inclusion program in the world—PMJDY—and worked on the harmonization of the know-your-customer (KYC) process to enhance financial inclusion. Through this, we gained expertise in public policy design, digital identity, digital technologies, pilot testing of social programs, and KYC.
In 2016, we took these learnings to Indonesia. We helped in the pilot of a new cash-based subsidy program called Bantuan Pangan Non Tunai (BPNT). We are now assisting the expansion of this program. We have also been helping conduct a pilot to leverage the digital identity system (NIK) in Indonesia for e-KYC to enhance the pace of financial inclusion.
Today, we still pride ourselves on our authentic insights led by a thorough understanding of the socio-cultural and business contexts of our markets. However, we are no longer the niche research firm that started out many years ago in a small shared office in Uganda. We have grown into an organization that finds wide recognition in the international development community. The MicroSave name has come to represent the vast wealth of knowledge we have amassed on the lives of low-income people. Now it is time to pause, reflect on the journey across two decades, and step up our game, as a lot remains to be done.
The world of development that we inhabit has been in a state of constant change. MicroSave needs to be better prepared in this ever-changing environment. Our horizons have widened, and it is time we set our sights higher. There is a need for stronger and more consistent branding, especially when the teams are expanding across locations. It is time to relook at our identity. The new identity would leverage the time-tested MicroSave name, yet we must showcase our formidable expertise that we continue to garner in the development sector.
Enter MicroSave’s new avatar—MSC—or MicroSave Consulting. We explored a number of options but MSC was the natural choice, forging a deep connect with our staff. The MSC brand lets us retain our legacy while providing a wider canvas for us to connect with a more diverse base. We prefer to use the acronym form—MSC over MicroSave Consulting as it promises instant recall.
Our transformation into MSC kick-starts various other changes—our brand colors, design principles, and our language guidelines. The new color swatches reflect quality delivery, an empathetic mindset, creativity, and a deep desire to realize our mission.
With these changes, MSC aims to reach multiple milestones. We would consolidate our identity as a young, multi-directional, multi-sectorial consulting company. We would like to take the concept of “market-led” to all aspects of the lives of low-income people. Our work now focuses on education, health, livelihoods, climate change, water, sanitation, energy, gender, youth, and refugees, among others.
The new identity reflects our emergence as an avant-garde consulting partner that offers divergent thinking, passion, diverse expertise, and insights from different cultures. As a result, we will reinforce our identity as “the world’s local expert in financial inclusion”. We seek your continued support as patrons and well-wishers. Join us, as we chart new directions in our journey as MSC!
MSC is a boutique consulting company that partners with participants in financial services ecosystems to achieve sustainable performance improvements and unlock enduring value. We have been at the center of the digital finance revolution since we supported the M-PESA pilot-tests and advised Equity Bank on strategy, products, agent networks and bulk payments. Today, we work with governments and leading banks, telcos, and third-party service providers across Asia and Africa.
At MSC, we offer strategic and operational advice that allows our partners to innovate and succeed in a rapidly evolving market. We help you gain a deep understanding of your clients, their needs, perception, aspirations, and behavior. With our support, you can seize the digital opportunity, address the mass market, and future-proof your company.