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Our Staff Writers and Editors offer insights on the latest news, events, interviews and other happenings from the development through enterprise and base of the pyramid universes
Friday, July 30, 2010 — South Asia

Rich I.P.O. Brings Controversy to SKS Microfinance

Source: New York Times

An Indian company with rich American backers is about to raise up to $350 million in a stock offering closely watched by philanthropists around the world, showing that big profits can be made from small helping-hand loans to poor cowherds and basket weavers. The company, SKS Microfinance, is one of the biggest players in the field known as ...
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Thursday, July 29, 2010 — Latin America

The New Normal: Haiti After the Earthquake

Source: Benzinga.com

It's amazing how quickly things can return to normal. You wouldn't know it from watching CNN, but big segments of life in Haiti, including in the capital, Port au Prince, which suffered the greatest damage, have returned to what would have been considered normal in the days and months before the quake. There is plenty of destruction still evident, and tens or even hundreds of thousands of people living in tents or under blue plastic tarpaulins throu...
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Thursday, July 29, 2010 — South Asia

SKS Microfinance: Giant squid, ?Devta? or Just a Business?

Source: LiveMint

I've written in this space before asking why my BlackBerry stayed on the grid in a remote mountain village where basic banking was missing. A few years earlier I had argued for a model that would make financial services as ubiquitous as paan masala , glucose biscuits and shampoo sachets in remote rural India. So now when this comes to pass in the form of an initial public offering (IPO) from a microfinance firm that has made capital availab...
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Thursday, July 29, 2010 — No Region Specified

Marketing to the Poor: Lessons from Nestl?s Strategy in the Amazon

Source: CSR Asia

I came across a news alert on CSRwire a couple of weeks ago posing an interesting question: 'Is it bad to bring American candy to remote villages in the Amazon - or worse to keep it from them?' It featured an article by sustainability journalist Marc Gunther which explored the ethical dilemmas of marketing to the poor as highlighted by the launch of Nestlé's new marketing strategy in Brazil - a 'floating supermarket' designed to reach isolated riverside communities ...
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Thursday, July 29, 2010 — South Asia

Would You Like a Soda with Your Small Loan?

Source: Reuters

SKS Microfinance, India's largest microfinance institution (MFI), aims to raise up to $353 million in a closely watched IPO that has already drawn top anchor investors. As India's largest MFI and the first to do an IPO, SKS is answering lots of questions : Should MFIs charge ...
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Thursday, July 29, 2010 — South Asia

Innovating Solutions for India's Challenges

Source: Business Standard

Last week, Kapil Sibal unveiled the prototype of a Rs 1,500 tablet pc aimed at providing an ultra-low-cost solution targeted towards making computer literacy accessible to those who are at the bottom of the pyramid. The minister believes that not only it is possible to see a commercial launch of this prototype as early as in 2011, but also a price-point which could eventually be as low as Rs 500. A few months ago, Tata Group launched an ultra-l...
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Thursday, July 29, 2010 — South Asia

For Love or for Money? SKS Microfinance IPO Stirs Debate

Source: Canadian Business

MUMBAI, India (AP) - An Indian company that makes tiny loans to villagers aims to raise up to $354 million in an initial public offering, a move critics fear will encourage the microfinance lender - India's largest - to put shareholders above the poor it serves. SKS Microfinance's share sale, launched Wednesday, has already drawn the ire of one of the leading lights in the field. A publicly traded company's traditional obligation is...
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Thursday, July 29, 2010 — No Region Specified

Grameen Foundation and ThoughtWorks Partner on Microfinance Tech Platform

Source: PR Newswire

WASHINGTON and CHICAGO, July 27 /PRNewswire/ -- ThoughtWorks, Inc., ( www.thoughtworks.com ) the global leader in Agile methods of software development, today announced a global initiative to provide software engineering services for Grameen Foundation's Mifos platform. ThoughtWorks has established a dedicated team to advance the next-generation Mifos technology ar...
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 — South Asia

Youth Consumers are Key for Godrej

Source: Hindustan Times

If a brand is doing well, growing year after year, why does it need to transform? That's the question Godrej must have asked itself before going for its corporate re-branding effort in 2008. Present in around 27 product categories with close to 100 products, brand Godrej suddenly donned vibrant colours whileretaining its signature style in its logo at the start of the Indian Premier League 1 in 2008. ...
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 — South Asia

The New India: Social Entrepreneurship as a Family Affair

Source: Huffington Post

BANGALORE -- Neelam Chhiber met her husband Jacob Mathew in graduate school, the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad. Today, with their 19-year-old son Nishant, they are giving me one family's story of the improvisational networking and social entrepreneurship that are all the rage in digital India. It's not all monster business yet, and probably never will be. In the Chhiber-Mathew case...
Tuesday, July 27, 2010 — South Asia

Not the Typical Charity Case: Profits from SKS IPO

Source: PortFoliio

Investors linked to a charity stand to receive millions of dollars when a company they supported in lending to the poor in India goes public next week. The charity, Unitus , abruptly dismissed most of its staff this month , saying it h...
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 — Sub-Saharan Africa

Why Women are Economic Backbone of Rwanda

Source: CNN

Kigali, Rwanda (CNN) -- Six days a week Bernadette Ndizigiye puts her skillful hands to work. Stretched out on the floor of an empty classroom in Kigali, Ndizigiye and 20 other women weave baskets to earn their keep. Her job at the Agaseke Project, a government run cooperative, has earned Ndizigiye a steady wage, her first savings account, and a taste of financial empowerment. "I can pay school fees for m...
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 — No Region Specified

Translating Good Intentions into Good Inventions

Source: NPR

FORT COLLINS, CO (KUNC) - During the month of July, Colorado State University in Fort Collins is hosting 48 budding entrepreneurs, scientists and inventors from 17 countries. Their mission is to work on product inventions like cheap solar water heaters that are targeted to people living in the developing world. A Business Approach to Philanthropy Being an inventor takes a lot of hard work, intelligence and a little bit of elbow grease.&nbs...
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010 — Sub-Saharan Africa

Fund Seeks to Invest in the West African Seed Industry

Source: My Joy Online

The West Africa Agricultural Investment Fund ("WAAIF") and Injaro Investments Limited ("Injaro") Monday announced the First Closing of the first ever West African fund focused on investing in indigenous seed production companies. The initial investors in the fund are The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the Lundin For Africa Society, a Vancouver-based foundation. The launch of the fund will provide capital that is desperately needed by West Africa's cr...
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010 — South Asia

Mobile Applications for the Masses

Source: LiveMint

It was in the middle of last year that we decided to launch the mobile award as an advocacy and innovation reference platform, and named it mBillionth to work towards enabling mobile as a tool to make every critical content and service reach the bottom of the pyramid-the billionth person. With rigorous exercise across South Asia through various partnerships and help, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Consider this: We got more than...
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010 — South Asia

Creating a Consumption Class Out of the Poor

Source: DNA India

The late management guru CK Prahalad told us that there is a market at the bottom of the pyramid. Indian companies discovered that with the Re1 shampoo sachet. Ratan Tata believes that there is a huge market for the bottom-of-the-line Nano. But there is something missing here: the bottom below the bottom of the economic pyramid, where the fight is for the next meal. Subsistence living means there's no market. This is job No 1 for our anti-p...
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010 — No Region Specified

Microfinance Mission Accomplished? Hardly, Expert Says

Source: The Seattle Times

The recent decision by its board to close Seattle nonprofit Unitus and shift its resources to "other strategic areas" prompted Adam Sorensen, a consultant working for the International Finance Corporation, to write a response questioning the actions. Here's his personal perspe...
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010 — South Asia

Media Hype and the Reality of ?New? India

Source: The Hindu

In a week when Delhi's new "world-class" airport opened for business and the Indian Space Research Organisation celebrated the successful launch of five new satellites, we had a stark reminder of another India that, increasingly, many Indians feel embarrassed to talk about. A United Nations-backed study by Oxford University revealed that poverty in at least eight Indian States - Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, C...
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010 — No Region Specified

Frontier Investments: Focused on Mobile Banking, Microinsurance & Housing

Source: Microfinance Focus

ACCION International's Frontier Investments Group is a double bottom line, venture equity fund focused on catalyzing a new approach to microfinance. It invests in new technologies and disruptive business models that can powerfully enhance the way financial services are delivered to the poor. Building upon microfinance's success in "banking the unb...
Friday, July 16, 2010 — No Region Specified

SME Lending: A Test to Identify Entrepreneurs

Source: Bloomberg BusinessWeek

1. Do you like taking things apart to see how they work? 2. Do you enjoy going to parties? 3. Given five seconds, how long a sequence of numbers can you memorize? If your answers to these and about 150 other questions add up, you could run a small business in Nairobi. Or Lima. Or Bogotá. All because a new test identifies the traits that make for successful entrepreneurs in developing economies. The Entrepreneurial Finan...
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Thursday, July 15, 2010 — South Asia

Finance Minister to Banks: Reach out to Villages Via New Technologies

Source: Express India

New Delhi Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today asked banks to adopt new technologies, such as mobile banking and telephony, to reach out to the rural population and make economic growth inclusive and sustainable. "... We have to use new technologies and IT to make banking services available and within reach of rural people at large through the services of business correspondents, mobile banking vans, mobile telephony services and no frill accounts, etc," Mukherj...
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010 — South Asia

Rural Business Incubators: Tool for Inclusive Growth

Source: The Herald of India

BIPIN and Ratan, in their twenties, manage a small business that sells food-items, rice, chapathi, vegetables, nan etc, between 10 am and 3 pm every day in Mayur Vihar, in New Delhi. They make a profit of approximately Rs 2500 (US $56) per day. They have no bank account. There is no registration with the municipality. Their business has no official and legal permission. Though the food is cooked and served in un-hygienic condition, every time their roadside hotel has a waitin...
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010 — Sub-Saharan Africa

Fighting Poverty in Kenya by Selling Water Pumps to Poor Farmers

Source: PBS Newshour

JIM LEHRER : Next: A California man takes a business approach to combating poverty in Africa. "NewsHour" correspondent Spencer Michels reports. SPENCER MICHELS : It's a strange sight on the roof of a building in San Francisco: Martin Fisher, the co-founder of a nonprofit called KickStart, demonstrating a pump called the Super MoneyMaker that he developed for sale in poor countries, mostly in Africa. It's a devic...
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010 — South Asia

Japan's Uniqlo Joins Grameen Bank to Help Poor in Bangladesh

Source: AFP

Japan's casual clothing brand Uniqlo and Nobel Peace laureate Muhammad Yunus said Tuesday they would create a textiles company in Bangladesh to help poor women gain financial independence. Fast Retailing, which owns Uniqlo, plans to invest some 100,000 dollars to set up Grameen Uniqlo Ltd in October. The new company will source materials and make garments in Bangladesh -- including women's underwear, school uniforms and blankets.
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Tuesday, July 13, 2010 — South Asia

Eco-Friendly Water Solutions for Indian Farmers

Source: BBC

More photos and information on International Development Enterprises - India at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/asia_pacific/10366023.stm ...
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Tuesday, July 13, 2010 — Latin America

The Candy Bar at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Should Big Food Be Delivered to the Amazon?

Source: CSR Newswire

Last week, Nestle, the world's largest food company, launched a barge called Nestlé Até Você a Bordo - or Nestlé Takes You Onboard - on an 18-day voyage up the Amazon River in Brazil. This so-called floating supermarket will bring more than 300 well-known Nestlé brands, including Ninho (packaged milk), Maggi (soups and seasonings) and Nescafé (instant coffe...
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Tuesday, July 13, 2010 — No Region Specified

Private Equity Funds Step Up Investments in MFIs

Source: Sify Finance

Private equity (PE) investments in microfinance institutions (MFIs), which fell by 12 per cent last year (2009), have recovered this year. Between January and June this year, MFIs have attracted PE investment totalling $84 million (about Rs 386.4 crore) - an increase of a little over 15 per cent over the first half of 2009. Industry experts say the attraction of MFIs for PE investors lies in two sets of figures - the high interest rates that MF...
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Tuesday, July 13, 2010 — No Region Specified

Inside the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Source: The Guardian

The headquarters of probably the most powerful charity in the world, and one of the most quietly influential international organisations of any sort, currently stand between a derelict restaurant and a row of elderly car repair businesses. Gentrification has yet to fully colonise this section of the Seattle waterfront, and even the actual premises of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which, appropriately perhaps, used to be a cheque-processing plant,...
Tuesday, July 13, 2010 — No Region Specified

Solar for All Initiative Awards Prizes for Innovative Off-Grid Power Solutions

Source: PR Newswire

Ashoka and Canopus Foundation, founders of the Solar for All Initiative, announced the winners of the Solar for All Design Contest. For the past six months, Solar for All has been running a Contest to find the best innovations in delivering affordable solar photovoltaic power to low income communities without access to electricity, combining both affordable technical solutions with a developed market approach. The Award Ceremony, held on the ev...
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Monday, July 12, 2010 — South Asia

Kinetic Plans Power Project for Villages

Source: Hindustan Times

Kinetic Chairman, Arun Firodia, who saw an opportunity at bottom-of-the-pyramid long before the phrase became a catchword and launched the moped Luna, now plans to launch a project that would bring power to villages. The plan entails starting a pair of micro-electric plants at villages with a population of over 2,000. The mini wer-generation stations, one each for solar and biomass, will have a capacity of around 35-kilowatts each. "Through our family trust, we will soon be startin...
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Monday, July 12, 2010 — Sub-Saharan Africa

Cooperatives Can Get Women Out of Poverty

Source: Daily Monitor

On July 3, Uganda joined the rest of the world in the celebrations to mark the 88th Annual Cooperative Day, a day which provides us with a chance to reflect upon the remarkable achievements of the Cooperative Movement. The theme for this year was Empowering Women, a section of society which has historically stood to gain the most from the movement, and continues to advance itself using cooperative tools. All over the world, women are choosing t...
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Friday, July 09, 2010 — South Asia

In India, for India: Medical Device Makers Plug In

Source: Reuters

(Reuters) - In a sleek glass and chrome building in Bangalore's software hub, the more than 1,000 young researchers and engineers at GE Healthcare could hold the keys to innovations that save lives in India's vast hinterland. The 50,000-sq. ft. R&D facility, GE Healthcare's largest, recently launched the MACi, a portable electrocardiogram (ECG) machine that weighs less than 1 kilo and runs on a battery even in hot, dusty conditi...
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Friday, July 09, 2010 — South Asia

India's Mobile Providers: Competing for Calls at the Bottom of the Pyramid

Source: Knowledge@Wharton

Six months ago, Chunnilal Menaria's wife grumbled about her husband spending US$45 on a mobile phone. They lived in a one-room stone house, with no toilets or running water, only eight hours of electricity a day and earned US$60 a month with which they fed their family of five. The monsoon seasons, from which India derives much of its annual rainfall, have been poor over the past couple years and forced Menaria to take up carpentry to supplement his dwi...
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Friday, July 09, 2010 — South Asia

India's Poor Risk 'Slow Death' Recycling 'E-Waste'

Source: AFP

NEW DELHI - Young rag-pickers sifting through rubbish are a common image of India's chronic poverty, but destitute children face new hazards picking apart old computers as part of the growing "e-waste" industry. Asif, aged seven, spends his days dismantling electronic equipment in a tiny, dimly-lit unit in east Delhi along with six other boys. "My work is to pick out these small black boxes," he said, fingers deftly prising out integr...
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Friday, July 09, 2010 — South Asia

D.Light Wins Ashden Award

Source: Hindustan Times

D light Design, an Indian social enterprise that brings innovative solar lanterns to many people across India and other developing countries, has won the top Gold Award at the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy 2010. The prize, worth 40,000 pounds, was announced on Thursday night by noted environmentalist and broadcaster, Sir David Attenborough. D light Design was chosen for designing, manufacturing and marketing high quality, durable and affordable solar lanterns. In the w...
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