K Paul Thomas is the Founder and Executive Director of ESAF, medicine a Non Governmental Organization based in Thrissur, ed South India. He has been in the forefront of establishing various business entities aimed at the larger benefits of the society. Paul is also the Chairman & Managing Director of ESAF Microfinance and Investments Pvt. Ltd (a registered Non Banking Finance Company under Reserve Bank of India), there which reaches out to more than half million low income households in India through 160 branches and also having loan outstanding of 6.2 billion (103 million dollars). In 1995, with a small fund of Rs 30,000 he launched the first micro-credit initiative of the Organization.
Armed with a Masters Degree in Business Administration, he always dreamt of developing ‘social business models’ which have the potential of solving many problems faced by the society. His community based initiatives like ESAF Swasraya Producers Company, ESAF Healthcare Services Private limited etc., best exemplify the visionary in him. From the beginning of ESAF Society in 1992, Paul was determined to address social issues like unemployment, access to finance and education. Now, the Organization has emerged as a successful development organization with programs and projects supported by well-wishers, State and Central Governments and International donors.
His 18 years of experience in working with the world’s largest fertilizer cooperative i.e IFFCO, prior to the launch of ESAF, gave him closer insights on marketing and product development. Today, ESAF is known for its pro-poor initiatives nationally as well as internationally and has been acknowledged several times for its commitment towards the society. The able leadership provided by Paul has been a source of constant support and enthusiasm for his team of 1700 odd qualified men and women. He has contributed significantly to the Microfinance Industry and is in the Advisory and Governing bodies of various institutions including MFIN (India Microfinance Institution Network). Through leading national dailies / internal publications he has given various interviews / opinions about the positive impact of MFIs and has requested the State Government to refrain from bringing MFIs under the purview of State laws.
In recognition to his stature as a leader with social development goals, Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Kozhikode has invited him, in 2011, to deliver a lecture on Microfinance and Micro-entrepreneurship development. ILO Geneva has also invited to him to deliver a lecture on the scope of microfinance for livelihood promotion. He was also invited for the Microfinance India Summit in 2011 to deliver a lecture on Microfinance and affordable health services. In 2010, International Labour Organization has selected ESAF as one of its partners for implementing its project Microfinance for decent work.
Under his able leadership, ESAF Microfinance has won the prestigious Micro-insurance award constituted by Planet Finance and ING Group in 2007. In 2009 and 2010 ESAF Microfinance has won the Mix market Social Performance Reporting Award sponsored by CGAP and Ford Foundation..
In short, K. Paul Thomas is considered as a pioneer in the sector in Kerala. We should not forget the fact that even the Kerala State Government’s initiatives in microfinance were started long after 1995. Also, he has been in the forefront to facilitate the formation of KAMFI - Kerala Association of Microfinance Institution- which has been formed to inculcate shared values of Microfinance among the members.
Paul is married to Mereena, Co-founder of ESAF and they are blessed with four children, Emy Acha Paul, Alok Thomas Paul, Abhishek Joe Paul & Ashish Chris Paul. They are living in Thrissur, the central part of Kerala, India.