Thursday, January 20, 2011

We Are Not Trying To Solve All The World's Problems

People talked of me as a future Prime Minister of Nepal when I was at high school. They were perhaps not off the mark, because a guy who was junior to me politically before I came to America - I was too young to be running for office legally, but I was Vice General Secretary to a political party with two MPs - has been a cabinet minister in Nepal for years now. I have sharp political instincts, as sharp as anyone on the planet. Like Marlon Brando says, I could have been somebody.

My point being, what I have is not a political organization. We are not in the good governance business. Good governance is basic to poverty elimination. But if a people have an illegitimate, shady, corrupt, oppressive government, it is their responsibility to rise up and throw that government out. My company is not in the political revolution business, although I don't see how I can stay away from Iran myself personally.

We are only going into countries that have kept the inflation rate at 5% or less for five years or more. That leaves out a lot of countries, that definitely leave out Zimbabwe where inflation rates recently were at 10,000%. No kidding. 10,000%. I have to be careful about where I go during the early stages. When we mature and get big, maybe we can tackle harder countries, but I can't be starting with the hardest countries.

Not even India qualifies to be the first country we go into. Jack - who has extensive microfinance experience in India - argued early that we need to go into a middle income country first. I got convinced. Rachel has been to Paraguay for her microlending film. Right now we are looking into going into Paraguay as our first country.

Long term we are going all over the Global South. We are going into Africa, we are going into Asia. But we are going to start with Paraguay.

Not only are we going into a middle income country first, we are also going to make it absolutely clear we are not looking for poor people to give money to. We are looking for entrepreneurs. All we are saying is we don't care if you have no collateral, we don't care if you live on a dollar a day, or two dollars a day. If you are an entrepreneur, we will do business with you.

We are not looking for poor people. We are looking for the entrepreneurs among the poor people. Grow my money. That's the deal.

It is important to start out with a narrow focus. It is important to start out small. Then you scale it.

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