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A Fistful of Rice: My Unexpected Quest to End Poverty Through Profitability
     

A Fistful of Rice: My Unexpected Quest to End Poverty Through Profitability

by Vikram Akula
 

Around the globe, poverty has held too many people in its grip for too long. While microfinance - small loans to impoverished individuals - initially attracted attention in the press, it didn't achieve the scale, scope, and profitability necessary to substantially combat poverty. All that changed with Vikram Akula's creation of SKS Microfinance.

In this highly

Overview

Around the globe, poverty has held too many people in its grip for too long. While microfinance - small loans to impoverished individuals - initially attracted attention in the press, it didn't achieve the scale, scope, and profitability necessary to substantially combat poverty. All that changed with Vikram Akula's creation of SKS Microfinance.

In this highly personal narrative, A Fistful of Rice, Akula reveals how he pieced together the best of both philanthropy and (to his surprise) capitalism to help millions of India's poor transition from paupers to customers to business owners.

As thoughtful as Barack Obama's personal journey in Dreams from My Father, as harrowing as Paul Farmer's battle against infectious disease in Mountains Beyond Mountains, and as gripping as Greg Mortensen's fight for education in Three Cups of Tea, Akula's story shows how traditional business principles can be brought to bear on global problems in new ways.

A Fistful of Rice offers not only inspiration but also lessons for anyone seeking to transform tenacity, creativity, and innovation into potent tools for fighting even the most seemingly intractable human burdens.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this heartfelt manifesto, Akula argues that a for-profit model of microfinancing is not only ethical, but necessary in order to increase revenue that can create more loans for underprivileged would-be entrepreneurs. Describing his own journey of gaining villagers' trust, Akula uses his experiences of the company he founded in rural India, Swayam Krishi Sangam (SKS), and its rampant growth as a case study. Beginning with a small pool of donations, SKS typically lent to each client for goats, water buffalo, or the purchase of enough supplies to begin a tiny storefront shop. SKS ran a tight ship—holding each community collectively responsible for repayment and often putting women in charge of each family's loan. This thoughtful book presents a rare melding of genuine compassion with a businessman's commitment to efficiency and growth. Even those who disagree with for-profit ideals of lending will find the claims and the logic of Akula's thesis intriguing and his experiences insightful. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
“… heartfelt manifest...This thoughtful book presents a rare melding of genuine compassion with a businessman's commitment to efficiency and growth…intriguing and…insightful” – Publisher’s Weekly

An “engaging account…” – Fast Company

“This absorbing book tells the story of how Vikram Akula turned an idealistic vision into a thriving business that today serves millions of poor women in India. I have witnessed firsthand how SKS Microfinance has had an amazing impact in India compared to other poverty-reduction programs.” – Vinod Khosla, Cofounder, Sun Microsystems, and Principal, Khosla Ventures

“…an inspiring autobiographical story of an American of Indian origin who went to India to help the rural poor…” – Foreign Affairs

Library Journal
Akula, founder and chair of SKS Microfinance, here relates his personal journey after a life-changing moment in 1995 when working in India in microfinance for the first time ("lending very small amounts of money to very poor people") with the nonprofit Deccan Development Society (DDS). A woman asked him if a lending program could be started in her village, but after being told by the DDS director that funds were not available, Akula informed the woman, who replied: "Am I not poor, too?" "This was a defining moment for me," he says. "We had to find a way to change microfinance—to make it available to any Indian, or any poor person anywhere in the world…to escape poverty." This event led Akula to organize and create SKS Microfinance, which is now successful. The struggles to develop SKS as well as the innovations that made it successful are recounted. VERDICT Not only for those interested in economics and business, this is for anyone looking to read an inspirational story of a person who works toward helping the poor and succeeds at truly making a difference.—Lucy Heckman, St. John's Univ. Lib., Jamaica, NY

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781422131176
Publisher:
Harvard Business Review Press
Publication date:
11/09/2010
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Vikram Akula is the founder and chair of SKS Microfinance. In 2006, Time magazine named him one of the world's 100 most influential people. He has received several awards, including the World Economic Young Global Leader (2008), the Schwab Social Entrepreneur of the Year in India (2006), and the Ernst & Young Start-Up Entrepreneur of the Year in India (2006). He has been profiled in media ranging from CNN to the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

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