Vikram Akula, SKS Microfinance Founder and CEO, Named to TIME Magazine’s List of Top 100 Most Influential People

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Vikram selected for his work to reduce poverty in India through microfinance.

Recognized for his vision and leadership as the Founder and CEO of SKS Microfinance, one of the world’s fastest growing microfinance institutions, Vikram Akula has been named by TIME Magazine as one of “The People Who Shape Our World” for 2006. The annual list that celebrates the lives and ideas of the world’s most influential people was released today and includes global leaders such as Bill Clinton, Bill and Melinda Gates and George W. Bush.

Vikram joins Nandan Nilekani, Infosys Founder and President, as one of two Indians to make the list. Vikram was highlighted for his work as a pioneer in the microfinance industry and dedication to improving the lives of the poor in India. Born in India but raised in the U.S., Vikram founded SKS in 1998 to empower the poor to become economically self-reliant by providing financial services in a sustainable way. “Even though it’s my name on the list, the true honorees are our clients across the country who struggle everyday to overcome poverty and inspire us with their courage,” said Vikram. “I started SKS because I was overwhelmed by the poverty I saw in India and was looking for a way to catalyze rapid economic development for the poor,” he continued. Today, SKS is one of the fastest growing microfinance organizations in the world, having disbursed over $52 million in loans to 221,000 women clients in poor regions of India. “This is a great recognition of the pioneering microfinance movement in Andhra Pradesh. It highlights the tremendous groundwork done by microfinance practitioners—both government and private institutions—in bringing finance to the poor,” added Vikram.

Vikram has dedicated much of his professional life to addressing India’s poverty. Prior to launching SKS, Vikram was a Fulbright Scholar in India, during which he coordinated a government-funded (Jawahar Rozgar Yojana) action-research project on providing microfinance for food security. He has also worked as a community organizer with the Deccan Development Society in Andhra Pradesh and as a researcher with the Worldwatch Institute, where he wrote articles on poverty and development. He holds a B.A. from Tufts, an M.A. from Yale and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, where his dissertation focused on poverty alleviation strategies.

“We are proud to partner with SKS and help them achieve their dramatic growth,” said Unitus (http://www.unitus.com) President and CEO Geoff Davis. “Not only are they improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of India’s working poor, but they are also providing the industry with a powerful model for successful and sustainable growth.”

About SKS Microfinance (http://www.sksindia.com):

Launched in 1998, SKS Microfinance is one of the fastest growing microfinance organizations in the world, having provided over $52 million in loans to 221,000 women clients in poor regions of India. Borrowers take loans for a range of income-generating activities, including livestock, agriculture, trade (such as vegetable vending), and production (from basket weaving to pottery). SKS also offers interest-free loans for emergencies as well as life insurance to borrowers.

SKS currently has 85 microfinance branches in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh and will be launching in 5 more states of India this year in pursuit of its goal to reach 700,000 clients by March 2007. In the last year alone, SKS Microfinance has achieved nearly 300% growth, with a current portfolio of $25 million and a 98% on-time repayment rate.

In addition to rapid expansion, SKS leads the industry in technology innovation and transparency. It is one of the first MFIs in the world to have a fully-automated MIS that streamlines operations and helps reduce transaction costs. It also has set global standards for transparency, having twice received recognition in CGAP’s worldwide microfinance transparency competition.

SKS has received numerous awards including the CGAP Pro-Poor Innovation Award, the ABN-AMRO/Planet Finance Process Excellence Award, the Digital Partners SEL Award, and the Grameen Foundation USA Excellence Award. SKS was also a finalist for the Berkeley Haas School Social Venture Competition and the Stockholm Challenge. SKS is the only MFI in India to receive the MIX Transparency Certification. SKS was selected by Unitus as the most promising microfinance organization in India and Unitus, Vinod Khosla (founding CEO of Sun Microsystems), and others have made multi-million dollar investments in SKS.

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