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Not exactly Gandhi: a chat with India's debt collectors

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Reporters on the Job: To report on a story about the growing debt of India's middle class (see story here), I wanted to interview credit-card debt agents, who are infamous for their aggressive tactics. There have been several reported cases across India of clients getting beaten up by debt collectors.

But it wasn’t going to be easy to find these agents, because banks don't reveal the outside agencies they contract with to collect debts.

Through intermediaries, I eventually landed an interview with two burly private debt collectors, who work for various multinational banks in Pune, India. They invited me for a 9 p.m. rendezvous at – guess where – a shady beer bar in the heart of the city.

I had nothing to worry about, I told myself, while I drove there. (I always pay my credit-card debts on time).

In the next two hours, they explained how they work. Their job isn’t easy: They’re expected to shadow indebted card holders, visit them at home, and beseech, sweet-talk, beg, plead, and do all they can until they cough up the money they owe, or at least a part of it.

At one point, I asked if they use violent methods to recover money.

Showing me a gash on his forehead, he candidly admitted that sometimes none of the above “Gandhian” methods work, and that some cardholders refuse to pay up even after repeated home visits.


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