iCare is enabling Southeast Asian workers to purchase the basic goods of middle-class life without falling into debt.
Duong Thi Thai and her husband, Nguyen Van Khoi, work in Ho Chi Minh City at the Freetrend Ltd. factory, a series of low-slung buildings where, on any given day, nearly 20,000 people labor. There the couple make shoes, earning about VND 10 million ($445) per month, which, while certainly better than not having a job, leaves them near the bottom of Vietnam’s wage scale.
After getting married in 2009, Thai says, they hoped to buy a few basic appliances for their new one-room apartment. For the newlyweds, as well as tens of millions of people in the developing world who manufacture consumer goods but struggle to afford them, acquiring a refrigerator or computer requires many months of scrupulous saving. Sometimes those purchases never get made: Saving money is hard, finances are tricky, and life is unpredictable.
Thai and Khoi’s income is almost completely consumed by rent, living expenses, and school supplies for their two young children, leaving little to purchase the new appliances they desired. Then, in 2014, Freetrend partnered with iCare Benefits, a social-enterprise company founded that year to help factory laborers like Thai and Khoi afford basic consumer goods and services, which iCare sells on zero-interest installment plans to workers who qualify for membership.
Read the entire feature on iCare Benefits on the SSIR website.