View from the sidelines by Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy
I had the good fortune of meeting Sandeep Farias, founder and MD of Elevar Equity yesterday. Shradha had met Sandeep to discuss Madura Microfinance Sociopreneurship 2010, the YourStory/CNBC-TV18 Young Turks event slated for 23 November. Just a few days away. I just joined Shradha. Sandeep gave me a walkthrough of why they invested in Madura Microfinance. I found that rare coincidence. I am an outsider and view action from the sidelines. I believe Dr. Tara Thiagarajan’s (Chairperson, Madura Microfinance) research on connecting rural markets and social transformation of the rural populace to alleviate poverty will transform the rural landscape. Sandeep echoed the same views on his own. The difference between my understanding and conclusion and that of Sandeep is that Sandeep’s come from a thorough understanding of Madura Microfinance and Tara’s research. Sandeep came across as a person with strong beliefs and having a no-nonsense approach. He has been very reticent about media that his seven to eight years of work is largely unpublicized. My views of VCs are getting a lot balanced after meeting people like Sandeep. I hear mostly the negative side from many entrepreneurs and advisers in conferences and meetings.
Christopher M. Brookfield, founder and MD of Elevar Equity and a colleague of Sandeep, is also in India on a visit. He says Andhra Pradesh has the largest number of private schools in India and that’s why microfinance is doing well there. He is waiting to validate his viewpoint in other states where private schools are coming up in large numbers. The dynamics in Tamil Nadu work a bit different though. The general awareness among the rural population is high in Tamil Nadu, according to Sandeep, and that gives a different flavor to the microfinance landscape. Chris likes dosas and idlis. He asked me if he would find long queues if he were to go to a dosa shop on a Friday evening in Chennai. I could see a balance of views and a thorough understanding of the turf only through two partners in Elevar. The other two women partners should be equally calibrated and well informed about the microfinance sector. Their refreshing approach is a boon to microfinance sector in India.
In the end, we are privileged to have Madura Microfinance as our title sponsor. I am still in awe about Dr. Tara’s career graph. From a math student to management graduate to brain researcher. Many people jump from research to management maybe in search of wealth. But Dr. Tara has bucked the trend in my view. So she is able to bring that unique perspective and thinking that no one has thought of before.
David Appasamy, executive director of Madura Microfinance, stays at budget hotels during travel and eats at mess (a small eatery joint serving home-made food). Cost consciousness runs through his veins, as he himself bats for it. Moreover, he snaps a picture of the mess’s delicacies on his Facebook page. He told me several of his friends are waiting to join him in travel to eat in those mess-type eateries. He is down to earth and has ears on the ground. His family-owned Appasami Trust has done a lot of work to help villagers in Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu. His social connection comes here. He has been a hospitality professional, advertising and media manager, technology executive, and now a social enterprise head. He showed me pictures of transformation of women who benefited from Madura Microfinance. From the first pictures of women who come for first round funding to women who come in the third round, you could see a huge transformation in the way they are dressed and present themselves. Their confidence levels soar.
Don’t miss the opportunity to meet many more phenomenal people at Madura Microfinance Sociopreneur 2010. It is a celebration of social entrepreneurship courtesy YourStory/CNBC-TV18 Young Turks title sponsored by Madura Microfinance.