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Vikram Akula, microfinance pioneer, exiting SKS

business Updated: Nov 24, 2011 01:12 IST
SKS Microfinance

SKS Microfinance, India's only listed microlender, said on Wednesday its founder Vikram Akula resigned as chairman and named an independent director as an interim replacement.

Akula, who founded SKS in 1997, led the firm's meteoric rise from a provider of small loans to impoverished women mainly in Andhra Pradesh to a company that went public in spectacular fashion to raise $358 million in August last year before it was crippled by a regulatory crackdown.

Shares in SKS, whose investors included billionaire George Soros and private equity firm Sequoia Capital, have lost 92% from their peak and the company now has a market value of $163 million.

SKS has seen turbulent times since it went public, including the abrupt resignation of its then-CEO Suresh Gurumani, shortly after its listing.

Reports of high interest rates and aggressive loan recovery practices dented the sector's image and invited regulatory scrutiny.

Andhra Pradesh, the industry hub, imposed a set of restrictive laws that came into effect last year that ended up severely curtailing microfinance activity in the state, scaring away banks and investors and prompting many small to mid-sized lenders to the poor to shut shop.

The sector is now awaiting passage of a law in Parliament that would make the central bank the sole regulator of the sector, overriding the restrictions imposed by Andhra Pradesh.

PH Ravi Kumar, an SKS board member for five years, will take over as interim non-executive chairman, SKS said in a statement.

It did not give a reason for Akula's resignation but finance chief Dilli Raj told reporters that his exit was voluntary.

Ahead of the announcement, SKS shares closed 5% up at 115.45 rupees in a weak Mumbai market. The shares traded as high as 1,491.50 rupees last year.