Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Who is Iqbal Quadir?

Iqbal Quadir is a soft spoken Bangladeshi who lives in the greater Boston area. He talks mostly about other people's achievements. So?  Well, he himself has a pretty remarkable story and at least one very important idea. 

Two decades ago, the Swathmore and Wharton educated investment banker had an insight. That in poor areas a lot of time and opportunity is lost because of poor access to communication and information. "Connectivity is productivity" he realized. He came up with this wild vision of providing universal access to telephones in primarily rural and overwhelmingly poor Bangaldesh. His Gonofone went on to become Grameenphone, the country's largest telecom operator with 35 million or so subscribers today.

Now in his second innings, he has created the Legatum Center at MIT which helps foster entrepreneurship in developing countries. He finds it bizarre that while it's clearly evident and accepted that wealth in the west was created through bottom-up enterprise and entrepreneurs, for developing countries the world (bank) insists on using the model of top-down government, aid, and handouts. Aid, he says, has empowered the authorities and marginalized ordinary citizens. Now that this model has clearly failed, he feels its time to try something else and unleash entrepreneurship in Asia, Africa, Latin America. Thats what he does.

Now, how I wish at least some of those talented young blokes who are lining up year after year to become IAS officers or babus of a lesser kind, venture out to create something that creates social and economic wealth or join socially relevant businesses like ours. There is so much good to be done, money to be made, and satisfaction to be got. Freebees and chair-power don't do that you see.....What do you think?


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