Starbucks + Ahimsa = Aarthik Swaraj

Thursday, May 4, 2006


He has Starbucks in his eyes and ahimsa in his heart. Vikram Akula, the 37-year-old founder of SKS Microfinance, dreams of putting the two together to attain ?aarthik swaraj?.

Akula, who finds a place in Time?s list of 100 ?People Who Shape Our World?, believes corporatising the NGO sector is a must for meaningful poverty alleviation programmes. ?A for-profit business model is the fastest way to put more money into more poor hands,? he says in a chat with ET.

Working in the not-so-glamourous domain of microfinance, where ?for profit? is still a dirty pair of words, the challenges before Akula are to scale-up and standardise as fast as possible. Serving a client base of 2,21,000 poor women through 85 branches in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, SKS hopes to service seven lakh clients by March ?07.

?Look at Starbucks. Thousands of stores, millions of clients, high product standardisation, high level of automation. That?s the way to go,? he says. Coke or McDonald?s have more than a lesson or two for those who wish to deal with social problems, he says. SKS, a bellwether microfinance institution, is one of the fastest growing lenders in the country, having grown 300% last year. It has cumulatively disbursed Rs 240 crore in micro loans since 1998, holds a current portfolio of Rs 90 crore and boasts of a repayment rate of 98%.

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Source: The Economic Times (link opens in a new window)