Vikram Akula, the former Chairman of SKS Microfinance, broke his silence today about the mistakes he made in his social venture, in a speech at the Social Enterprise Conference at Harvard.
Akula acknowledged the legitimacy of the criticism he had received from Mohammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor and Founder of Grameen Bank, who had long taken issue with SKS’s deployment of private capital in microfinance and its profit orientation.
“Professor Yunus was right” Akula said tonight, amidst a room of 500 attendees at the Conference. “Bringing private capital into social enterprise was much harder than I anticipated.”
Recent press reports indicated SKS Microfinance agents may have used coercive loan recovery practices, departing from the traditional values-based model of social enterprise. Other reports have emerged that recipients of the loans were entering into potentially un-repayable debt. Akula stepped down from SKS Microfinance in November.
Akula also stated tonight that he had focused on scaling SkS’ model and had not fully anticipated the potential downside of accessing the public market for social enterprise.
At the end of his speech, Akula expressed hope that future social entrepreneurs would learn from his experiences. “The mistakes I’ve made can help the rest of you” said Akula.
About The Social Enterprise Conference
The Social Enterprise Conference is the leading annual symposium that advances the practice and study of social entrepreneurship. In its 13th year, the gathering of more than 1,500 participants has established an impressive track-record for offering inspiring speakers, engaging workshops, illuminating panels, and door-opening networking. Organized by students from the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, the conference builds on topical knowledge developed in the field, through academic study, and at similar events throughout the year. This year’s theme, “Innovation, Inclusion, Impact,” asks participants to find new ways to address social problems in a way that makes a positive difference for all stakeholders.