A FISTFUL OF RICE
My Unexpected Quest to End Poverty Through Profitability
An In-the-Trenches Account of One Man’s Bold Plan to End Poverty
In 1998, in a remote village in India, an idealistic entrepreneur named Vikram Akula launched a micro-finance organization to provide small loans to very poor, would-be entrepreneurs. In a country where more than 800 million people live on less than two dollars a day, Akula’s mission was audacious: he didn’t want to help some Indians out of poverty; he wanted to help them all. But existing micro-lending practices were frustratingly limiting, highly inefficient, and prohibitively costly. Akula vowed to find a better way—and the remarkable story of his journey will surprise and inspire you.
In Fistful of Rice, Akula recounts how he grew SKS Microfinance from a fledgling startup working in destitute villages into one of the largest and fastest-growing microfinance organizations on the planet, disbursing over $2.5 billion to date to more than six million of India’s poor. Working with Indian women who built successful enterprises, ranging from home-front stores to rearing goats with loans as small as $40, Akula became convinced that the poor must control their own ascent from poverty. Most important, he also realized that providing micro-loans on the mass scale India needed would require SKS to adopt a for-profit business model.
Akula’s decision sparked a vigorous debate about the ethics of making money from lending to the poor. Against the backdrop of this debate, he details how combining commercial discipline—Coca-Cola’s distribution, McDonald’s systematic production, Google’s growth model—with philanthropic ideals has created a mutually beneficial, self-sustaining business model that could provide tens of millions of poor people the economic tools to get out of poverty.
Describing his unorthodox journey from activist to CEO to business consultant, Akula recounts showdowns with local thugs and corrupt politicians, encounters with well-known figures from Michelle Obama to Rahul Gandhi to Bill Gates, and unforgettable experiences with fearless employees and colorful Indian entrepreneurs.
A must-read for anyone passionate about social causes and innovative ways to solve them, Fistful of Rice tells how a true visionary discovered the ultimate expression of “doing well by doing good.”
Vikram Akula is the Founder and Chairperson of SKS Microfinance. He is also a sought-after public speaker, and in 2006, was named one of the world’s “100 Most Influential People” by Time magazine.