His former colleagues might have succeeded in pushing him out of microfinance, but it is difficult to push microfinance out of him. SKS Microfinance Ltd, the company Vikram Akula conceived, built and took to heights of stock-market glory and then to its painful depths, all in a little over a decade, still lies in his heart, an unceremonious exit a year ago notwithstanding.
The storyline pretty much resembles that of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who was fired from the company in 1985. Jobs had described being fired from Apple was the best thing that could have happened to him as the heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again.
His return to Apple in 1996 and what he did to the company since is the stuff of dreams.
Can Akula do a Steve Jobs and get the beleaguered microlender back to its peaks? Rule it out at your own peril.
Akula, now running an agricultural research and application firm called AgSri, was seen at the World Economic Forum India event last week, and is visibly in a state of mind, similar to that of Apple-less Jobs.
Akula said, though he had no plans to re-enter microfinance immediately, “right opportunity in the right context” would bring him back to the financial inclusion sector, which he says is his passion. Of course, learning from past mistakes and applying them effectively is what he seems to be preparing for.
On November 23, 2011, Akula, founder and chairman of the only listed microfinance institution, resigned from the board of SKS in the wake of huge losses suffered by the Hyderabad-based firm. The company appointed P H Ravi Kumar, independent director, as the interim non-executive chairman. Akula remained a consultant to the company until the end of March 2012 to assist with the transition.
Currently, though out of SKS management, Akula hardly forgets his baby, which he nurtured to grow to a huge organisation from a humble beginning.
Ask him about SKS and he tells you, trying unsuccessfully to hide his eagerness, the existing management would take it to where it has to go and his job is to focus on other subjects. The interesting part is that Akula is holding 0.84 per cent (906,734) shares in SKS according to the shareholding pattern filed with BSE at the end of the quarter ended September 30.
Quite similar to Jobs’ experience, Akula also single-handedly influenced one of the world’s largest microfinance markets in a major way.