Founder of the world's #1 ranked microfinance institution argues for relentlessly focusing on efficiency
Shafiqual Chowdhury, the founder of ASA, the world's #1 ranked microfinance institution according to Forbes magazine, visited NYU Wagner on October 22, 2008, to share perspectives with students. In his remarks, Chowdhury argued for maintaining a relentless focus on efficiency: by being as efficient as possible in delivering services, costs can come down and profits go up. Only with profits, Chowdhury argued, is massive scale possible. ASA now provides financial services to 7 million low-income women in Bangladesh, and recently closed a $150 million fund to expand their model elsewhere in Asia.
"ASA's story challenges decades of thinking about strategies to achieve economic and social development," writes Jonathan Morduch, professor at NYU Wagner and Managing Director of the Financial Access Initiative, in the foreword to a new book on ASA (The Pledge: ASA, Peasant Politics, and Microfinance in the Development of Bangladesh by Stuart Rutherford, forthcoming in 2009 from Oxford University Press). By transforming from an NGO focused on grassroots political change into a financial institution, Morduch argues, ASA's history forces observers to "contemplate what has been gained and lost. What has been possible and what was perhaps utopian, ill-advised, and presumptuous."
The event was organized by the NYU Microfinance Initiative and supported by the Financial Access Initiative.