Sun Co-Founder Khosla Promotes Micro-Finance To End Indian Poverty
Vinod Khosla, billionaire VC & Sun Microsystems co-founder, was already among world’s richest when he invested in SKS Microfinance, a lender to poor women in India. Roaring success of SKS’s IPO has enriched him by ~ $117 mn
when he invested a few years ago in SKS Microfinance, a lender to poor women in India.
But the roaring success of SKS’s initial public stock offering has made him richer by about $117 million —
money he says he plans to plow back into other ventures that aim to fight poverty, while also trying to turn a profit.
And he says he wants to challenge other rich Indians to do more to help their country’s poor.
An Indian transplant to Silicon Valley, Mr. Khosla plans to start a venture capital fund to invest in companies
that focus on the poor in India, Africa and elsewhere by providing services like health, energy and education.
By backing businesses that provide education loans or distribute solar panels in villages, he says,
he wants to show that commercial entities can better help people in poverty than most nonprofit charitable organizations.
“There needs to be more experiments in building sustainable businesses going after the market for the poor.
It has to be done in a sustainable way.
There is not enough money to be given away in the world to make the poor well off.”
Khosla’s advocacy of the bootstrap powers of capitalism is part of an increasingly popular school of thought:
businesses, not governments or nonprofit groups, should lead the effort to eradicate global poverty.
Some nonprofit experts say commercial social enterprises have significant limitations and pose conflicts of interest.
But proponents like Khosla draw inspiration from the astounding global growth of microfinance —
the business of giving small loans to poor entrepreneurs, of which SKS Microfinance is a notable practitioner.
Advocates also find intellectual support for the idea from the work of business management professors like the late C. K. Prahalad,
who have argued that large corporations can do well and do good by aiming at people at the so-called bottom of the pyramid.
Besides Khosla, entrepreneurs like Pierre Omidyar, a co-founder of eBay, and Stephen M. Case, a co-founder of America Online, have started funds with similar aims.
But Khosla, 55, who moved to the United States from India as a graduate student in 1976, has another motive, too:
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