Purpose Micro-finance self-help groups empower caregivers to indulge in productive activities based on the local availability of resources to reduce their financial burden. The purpose of this paper is to assess the need for and feasibility of initiating micro-finance groups for the caregivers of persons with mental disability in a rural socio-economically backward community of Karnataka, India. Design/methodology/approach The design of the study was a cross-sectional survey, with mixed methodology design out of the eight localities where the Mental Health Public Health Centres (PHC) were running successfully in Konandur area, Thirthahalli Taluk, Karnataka, one PHC was selected using simple Random Sampling Design and a 5 kms radius from Konandur town was selected as the area of the survey (190 households). During door-to-door survey, if the family indicated that a particular member is mentally unwell, the GHQ-5 and Symptoms and Others checklist were administered on him/her and the women caregiver was interviewed using qualitative needs assessment schedule and Perceived Social Support Scale. Findings Ten persons/households with mental illness (5.26 per cent) were identified in the community. Themes of financial needs, capacity of the caregiver, community resources, need for the microfinance self-help groups, informational needs, social support, burn out, and stigma elicited in the interview were depicted in the form of a conceptual framework to understand the inter-connectedness between the various themes. Research limitations/implications This study is the first initiative in the field of micro-finance self-help groups for the persons with mental illness and families. The design of the study was a cross-sectional survey, which is found globally to be the most suited in conducting prevalence studies, as it provides accurate results for future studies as well as it is the first step to obtain accurate baseline values to later plan a prospective follow up study. The study used mixed methodology design. Though the sample size was small, the information collected from the participants in qualitative and quantitative method was triangulated and conceptual frameworks were developed. As this study is one of the first of its kind in the country, the results of this study from the stated sample can be considered as an important pilot for future longitudinal and cross-sectional studies to be planned in the community. Originality/value There is hardly any scientific literature which talks about the need for Micro-finance self-help groups for Persons with Disability, especially with person with mental disability. In order to initiate any Micro-finance SHG activities, it is essential to first undertake the need for and feasibility of initiating such micro-finance group activities in any given area. This study will be an important milestone in initiating any self-help group activity for caregivers of persons with mental disability, as it would help us understand the financial needs of the community, based on which a draft proposal to initiate micro-finance self-help group activities can be drawn up.