A Fistful of Rice: My Unexpected Quest to End Poverty Through Profitability

A Fistful of Rice My Unexpected Quest to End Poverty Through Profitability Around the globe poverty has held too many people in its grip for too long While microfinance small loans to impoverished individuals initially attracted attention in the press it didn t achieve the

  • Title: A Fistful of Rice: My Unexpected Quest to End Poverty Through Profitability
  • Author: Vikram Akula
  • ISBN: 9781422131176
  • Page: 113
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Around the globe, poverty has held too many people in its grip for too long While microfinance small loans to impoverished individuals initially attracted attention in the press, it didn t achieve the scale, scope, and profitability necessary to substantially combat poverty All that changed with Vikram Akula s creation of SKS Microfinance.In this highly personal narrAround the globe, poverty has held too many people in its grip for too long While microfinance small loans to impoverished individuals initially attracted attention in the press, it didn t achieve the scale, scope, and profitability necessary to substantially combat poverty All that changed with Vikram Akula s creation of SKS Microfinance.In this highly personal narrative, A Fistful of Rice, Akula reveals how he pieced together the best of both philanthropy and to his surprise capitalism to help millions of India s poor transition from paupers to customers to business owners.As thoughtful as Barack Obama s personal journey in Dreams from My Father, as harrowing as Paul Farmer s battle against infectious disease in Mountains Beyond Mountains, and as gripping as Greg Mortensen s fight for education in Three Cups of Tea, Akula s story shows how traditional business principles can be brought to bear on global problems in new ways.A Fistful of Rice offers not only inspiration but also lessons for anyone seeking to transform tenacity, creativity, and innovation into potent tools for fighting even the most seemingly intractable human burdens.

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    One thought on “A Fistful of Rice: My Unexpected Quest to End Poverty Through Profitability

    1. Madhur Shrimal

      I was just in office when I saw this book with one of my friend. When I saw the book name, it sounded very interesting to me. I mean the title contains a deep meaning. So I thought of reading it. And yes I got to know why the title is this. A small incident, which contained a fistful of rice, made a person think so deep that he propagated the concept of for-profit organization and micro-finance to eradicate poverty on mass level. This books gives light to the struggle of Vikran Akula and his emp [...]

    2. Ayushi Nayak

      "The fact is, some people will never feel comfortable discussing poor people and profit in the same sentence, no matter how much sense it makes."This is the single most powerful sentence that changed the microfinance structure in India. I take a bow to thee, Mr. Akula.

    3. Lily

      A fast and important read. Vikram Akula pioneered aggressive growth, for-profit micro-finance. His argument for profitable micro-finance is absolutely compelling. With higher profit margins, his company could expand at a pace that would be impossible to match by a similar non-profit organization. At this point in time, his company (SKS) has brand recognition in India comparable to McDonald's and Burger King. By standardizing--and digitizing--the loan procedure in simple and elegant ways, Akula b [...]

    4. Judy

      Being a sucker for beating-the-odds stories, I picked up this book hoping it would prove to be an unveiling of how a single man helped poor women of India start their own businesses. The beginning of the book was promising as Akula relays an anecdote of a poor Indian woman picking up a few spilled grains of rice one-by-one and his resulting realizations that some people are that poor and that hungry. However, as Akula becomes more educated and more experienced in the field of micro-finance the e [...]

    5. Autumn

      This is a tough book for me to review. My feelings are mixed.If we're talking about writing ability and readability, "A Fistful of Rice" is a success. The chapters are clear and well-thought out, and the picture of his microloan program in India is very interesting. Akula has given a formidable amount of statistical information without overwhelming the reader, and his anecdotes about the people he helps/has helped are affecting.What I had a very hard time stomaching is the motivation behind the [...]

    6. Sara

      This book is basically a story of the start-up of Akula's micro-financing business and an ethical argument for for-profit micro-loans. His main point is that if wealthy investors can make money providing loans to the poor, more of the poor will get the entrepreneurial loans they need to bring themselves out of poverty. And because you are able to help more poor people than a non-profit lender can, it is the ethical thing to do. When simplified to that extent it sounds like his idea might work, b [...]

    7. Karin

      An excellent story. i like how Vikram thinks that poor people aren't a 'special' group of people needing kidgloves to help them out. He has proven that people who happen to be poor (thru lack of education, not b/c of physical or mental illnesses) are just as diverse and worthy of being treated as fulfledged adults, as any middle class person. He went to India and discovered that the poor knew how they needed/ wanted to be helped. Not handouts, but loans so they could pursue their dreams and crea [...]

    8. Daniel Taylor

      Entrepreneurs can learn a lot from Vikram Akula's quest to end poverty in India – at a profit.From when he comes up with the idea for his profitable microfinancing scheme, Akula faces obstacle after obstacle. His peers look down on him. Corrupt governments try to close him down. And on and on. Each time he finds a workaround.Their are personal leadership lessons here: identify your passions, find a way to make them profitable, and then stick through any obstacle to make them a reality.It's an [...]

    9. Thelma Melk

      This book for me was just philanthropy on steroids. I couldn’t help thinking, with all the initiatives globally - why do we still have poor people? I mean absolute abject poverty. This story opens your mind to the rich Indian culture and heritage, as well as the mind numbing scale of poverty. You also doff your hat to Vikram Akula for his determination to make a difference. & he does. The story reads like a fast paced thriller while it gives you an education. All your attitudes towards pov [...]

    10. Jeffy Joseph

      "Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime"Providing aid to the poor doesn't promote any kind of social mobility. Their fundamental needs might be satisfied, but they remain to be poor. Although I haven't seen his model in action, I believe Akula's business model does provide the poor an opportunity for upward mobility. But the efficacy of for-profit micro-finance seems to be debatable. As mentioned in the book, Nobel laureate Muhammad Yu [...]

    11. Syed Naser

      A nice read that can give a glimpse of issues that one can face in poverty alleviation efforts. Though vikram akula lost his micro finance company later (it was taken over by the government) , his book is a nice read that is practical and gives his signle minded conviction towards the cause of poverty alleviation

    12. Ramesh Prabhu

      It was in 1997 that Vikram Akula launched SKS Microfinance in Andhra Pradesh. His aim: to lend small sums of money to impoverished people to start their own modest businesses. The organisation, driven by the founder’s energy and enthusiasm, did well for a number of years. But last November, after a particularly rough time for microfinance companies in India as a whole, Akula stepped down as executive chairman (he will remain a consultant to SKS till March). The book he published in November 20 [...]

    13. Sudheer Madhava

      An innovative approach to reduce poverty in India by providing socially secured micro loans in rural areas with money raised from large capitalist financial concers for an excellent rate of return and better security than most conventional investments. Vikram Akula's venture has invited funding from venture capital giants like Sequoia Capital.A commendable effort by Vikram Akula inspired by Mohammed Younus (Grameen Bank) of Bangladesh which might be more important than many of the government led [...]

    14. Emily

      Very quick read about the author's start-up microfinance company in India. His company is different than most (all?) in that it is for-profit. He defended his position well, explaining that for-profit brings in more investors, meaning more capital, more loans, and more people they can reach. His business model is obviously a successful one, proven in its unmatched, rapid growth (700 members in 2000 to 8 million today, and growing). I was more interested in the results of his business than the bu [...]

    15. Ramakrishnan M

      Decent book; gives a good view into one of the most well-know MFIs in Indiauly the one that put Indian MFI in a global spotlight.Short, crisp and conversational it is quite an easy-to-read book. Apart from the typical grit and tough life of a typical entrepreneur to scale up, we also get to see some personal trauma and tough days of the author/enterprenuer - Vikram.I guess what was slightly (just slightly) disappointing was the lack of 'depth" in how the organization stabilized; the growth story [...]

    16. Amy O

      I enjoyed the personal stories, facts and context that Akula includes. The anecdotes grab your heart, the facts stun the mind (818 million people live on less than $2/ day in India) and context shows complexity. Microfinance industry and field based NGO work in India are major themes. An idealistic naivety shines through and makes me consider where Akula's fast track growth model for SKS overlooked the effects (did his organization have to do with microfinance suicides in India in 2010?.) A good [...]

    17. G.

      A useful book, though I might have appreciated less of his personal story and more of the workings of SKS, particularly where it is going in the future. If you are having issues with Exceptionalistic Guilt, or have yet to wrap your mind around why for-profit is not a negative, then perhaps this book and the story of Akula's journey are for you. For those interested in the inner workings, it's a quick read, and will at least prompt you to ask more questions of more in depth literature.

    18. Emily

      Four stars just because I really love and support micro-lending. And the book was an interesting take on how micro-credit can be fairly easily expanded to help tons more people by converting from non-profit to for-profit. Basically instead of just relying on contributions from donors, you can charge a wee bit more interest and earn enough to have more money to lend to more people. The problem I had with this book was that the author seemed to think rather highly of himself.

    19. Ashton Bitton

      A great, quick read. Akula's personable recount of his experience is an inspiration to me. He worked to make a difference, and through his work has succeeded in making the lives of thousands just that much better. His recap of how exactly he went about going into microfinance made it seem possible for anyone to do so as well, with the right amount of determination, dedication, and open-mindedness.

    20. Balkha

      What is so special about this book is not the literary value but the message that Vikram Akula is sending across. His vision and determination to eradicate poverty and launch SKS are truly inspiring. Some of the incidents which he narrates in the book seem surreal, like when he goes out to meet maoist guerrilla and refuses to bend to their demands. Hopefully these side stories which add spice to the narrative are true and don't turn out to be a hoax like "Three Cups of Tea".

    21. Nancy

      He certainly is an optimist! Akula is open about his passion and his failures. I found it endearing. I am sure there is reason to criticize his approach, but I'll refrain since the book certainly doesn't provide enough depth for that. Toward the end I found him exposing his naivete with his repeated comment "Everybody Wins!" Regardless, this is a book worth reading.

    22. Sarath Krishnan

      I have read it in a single sitting, not because it is a "classic" (by the way, classics need to be chewed, hence need a long time to finish), but because the language is simple, and the author doesn't have a lot to talk about: a modern day missionary who wants to save the world. I don't want to comment about the positives and negatives of his mission, as I got only one-side vision

    23. Kelli

      Two very interesting topics to me: Microloans and India. I devoured every page of this book. What a great concept and what a smart, smart man Akula is. It is so nice to read about someone empoowering the poor people in India and I look forward to following the progress of this company as it branches out across the world.

    24. Ramona

      Akula's achievements in microfinance are commendable, and his story is compelling. However, it's still hard to accept for-profit lending to the poor as a noble option. I hope to read more about it to understand the intricacies and whether the interest rates and auxiliary practices of SKS are truly helping or hurting the world's poor.

    25. Lydia

      This is one of those that we get as a review copy. About a competitor to Mohammed Yunus in microfinance. Interesting read that I got into after a trip to India. Vikram seems to have a chip on his shoulder re: Yunus though. Quick, interesting book on finance efforts in third world.

    26. Vatan Poonia

      A truly heart touching book, For anyone who believes that life is about giving and helping others,this book is a great lesson,Story of a real human who chose to help needy instead of being greedy, A man who discovered new frontiers in field of battling poverty.

    27. Karen

      Very interesting book about microfinance. I'd love to read another viewpoint of Mr Akula and SKS Microfinance since this one was necessarily biased. This book had some great content but also left out a lot because most things were described only at a high level.

    28. Vedasri Siddamsetty

      From being asked 'am I not poor too' to being asked rhetorically 'am I not doing well', Vikram Akula writes very well and sums up concisely the SKS world of micro-finance. I do now fathom the world of micro-finance. A terrific read!

    29. Margaret Sankey

      I had hoped this was one for the food class, talking about microfinance and food production, but it is, despite being from the Harvard Business School Press, a name-dropping puff piece on this guy's founding and defense of a for-profit microloan program.

    30. Llreichel

      The book was decently written amd his arguments promoting for-profit microfinance were convincing but further analysis causes me to believe that the method is absolutely flawed. At times his defensiveness overrode any quality argument he was using to make his case. Read with caution.

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