A candid account of what went wrong at SKS Microfinance Ltd during 2009-11 is in the offing. Founder and former chairman of SKS Microfinance, Vikram Akula, tells Santosh Tiwari in an interview he was working on his new book, which will focus on his SKS experience and lessons learnt. Edited excerpts:
How is life after SKS?
I am keeping busy. I am an investor in a new agricultural company, working on a strict routine. I also interact with other social enterprises and mentor (them). Though not actively involved in microfinance, I am keeping active in social enterprises more broadly.
Looking back, what would be your view on the whole issue?
In terms of micro finance……
In terms of micro finance. Yes.
Clearly, micro finance sector has gone through tremendous challenges. But, part of it obviously is perhaps due to their own hyper growth and the problems associated with that. I think one thing that’s clear is that despite the challenges microfinance will come back. Because at the end of the day, low income people in our country need access to finance and they need good form of access to finance. If anything, I think the crisis has taught MFI leaders that you need to do this in a responsible way -- high quality and transparent services to the customers. I think eventually, the industry will come out of this challenge and come out stronger in providing high quality services.
Would you like to come back?
You know, financial inclusion obviously is my life’s work and I will always be passionate about it, the time is not now for me to come back but perhaps in the future, in the right opportunity in the right context, of course, I am very passionate about the subject.
And SKS is always there in your mind?
Well. You know SKS, as the founder, my heart is very much there. But there is an existing management team and existing board and it’s their mandate to take that organization to where it is going to go and my mandate is now to focus on other subjects.
With your previous experience. Two critical things which you like to happen before you join micro finance again?
Sure, I am actually working on my next book which is going to talk a little bit about my experiences in the last couple of years at SKS and one of things that became very important to me is the importance of building culture when you scale up. It’s easy to have good and strong culture when you have small organization but the challenge of how you do that when you have 25,000 staff, that is something which we need to think about proactively as social entrepreneurs. May be in a business context, they will have experience of working at that scale and build culture. I think as social entrepreneurs that is the area which we need to focus on.
And second. From the government or the regulation side, what needs to be done?
I think, by definition, social enterprise because we are working in new markets with bottom of the pyramid, base of the pyramid population, we need to go much farther than the regulators. The regulation will never catch up with us because we are pioneers in our area. So as a result of that the responsibility of ours is much greater than a typical of corporate, which can simply follow the regulation in their frame. We have to go beyond that and do beyond the regulation and then regulator will catch up. I think that is the responsibility we have as social entrepreneurs.
So, in terms of scaling up. Are you happy with the way SKS is currently being run now?
I won’t comment on SKS but I think the general industry focus on client protection, high quality service to customers. I think that’s a welcome change. So, I appreciate that.