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NRI in Times' influential people list

Vikram Akula has been selected by the Time magazine as one of the 'shapers of the world'.

india Updated: May 01, 2006 10:28 IST

Vikram Akula, founder of SKS Microfinance, who uses smart cards to make venture capital available to over 800 million people living on less than two dollars in India, figures in the list of 100 most influential people selected by Time magazine as shapers of the world.

Akula, 37, has made SKS one of the fastest-growing microlenders, having dispensed 52 million dollars to 221,000 clients since 1998.

In the citation, the magazine says loaning a few bucks may not sound like cutting-edge banking but Akula is using advanced technology in the areas where there are few land telephone lines and no ATMs.

In such areas, Time says, founder of SKS Microfinance is starting to dispense loans, typically 116 dollars, on smart cards, which its land officers have been using to record repayment electronically.

The plastic approach, says the magazine, "intrigued" Visa International, which is now pairing SKS with cell phone-based card readers.

Akula, who grew up in upstate New York, says poverty in India is "disconcerting". "I just thought that I must do something.

"When you see the people suffer, make sacrifices, and when you experience the unstated intimacy of this suffering, only then you realise the brute reality of poverty," he says.