Alumni Spotlight: Vikram Akula

The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center
for International and Area Studies at Yale
Newsletter Articles - Spring 2007

Alumni Spotlight: Vikram Akula

MacMillan Center’s Master’s Program in International Relations, presented a lecture on “SKS: A New Generation Microfinance Institution” as part of the International Development Policy Speaker Series. He is the Founder and CEO of SKS Microfinance, one of the leading microfinance institutions in the world. In April 2006, Time magazine named him as one the of the “100 People Who Shape Our World,” and in November 2006, Akula was named India’s “Social Entrepreneur of the Year” at the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit.

“The mission of SKS” said Akula, “is to empower the poor to become economically self-reliant.” SKS was launched in 1998 and it is the fastest growing microfinance organization in the world, having provided $130 million in loans to nearly 500,000 poor women in impoverished regions of India. “Through microfinance, people eat better, kids go to school,” said Akula. “Microfinance works to eradicate poverty.”

Unlike NGO-based microfinance that typically lack capital and capacity, Akula believes SKS is successful for three reasons: it is profit-oriented; it uses standardized, scalable business processes; and it uses advanced technology­—smart cards to dispense loans and record repayments electronically—and software that provides real-time data.

“Our goal,” said Akula, “is to be able to scale up to reach 10 million clients.” With SKS’ history of accelerated growth, it’s no wonder the company is being hailed as the “Starbucks of Microfinance.”

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Contact Information:
Marilyn Wilkes
Yale Center for International and Area Studies
(203) 432-3413
marilyn.wilkes@yale.edu