It is official. Puranam Hayagreeva Ravikumar is the new non-executive chairperson-Interim of SKS Microfinance and its founder Vikram Akula has stepped down . Vikram Akula, the SKS Media release says: "has stepped down as chairperson and member of the board of SKS Microfinance. He will remain a consultant to the company until the end of March 2012 to assist with transition.''
As if to make it further clear that Akula may limited if not no role in future, the release further quotes M.R. Rao, managing director & CEO of SKS, as saying: "Vikram's entrepreneurial vision has been the foundation for SKS. We wish him success in his future endeavours."
Vikram Akula quits SKS Microfinance
Many, at least in the microfinance sector, expected this as the outcome from the board meeting of SKS that concluded on November 23 (Wednesday) evening. This board meeting in Mumbai will be an important date in the SKS evolution, since its early days in 1997. Akula says: "When I founded SKS in 1997, my dream was to create a movement that would lead to financial inclusion of the poor.''
P H Ravikumar named as interim Non-executive Chairman of SKS Microfinance
Responding to today's developments, Vijayalakshmi Das, managing director and promoter director of Ananya Finance for Inclusive Growth, who in her earlier role as the former chief executive of Friends of Women's World Banking (FWWB), India, had given the first major loan of around Rs 10 lakh to SKS in its first year of operations, says, "Vikram has played an important role in the branding of SKS and one would have to see what the business plan and model the company now has for its revival.'' But as for Akula's exit, she says, "unless details of the reasons why Vikram had to step down are known it will be difficult to comment.'' However, she does say: "this development will surely be watched carefully by promoters and founders of other microfinance companies either from a point of view of shareholding structure or in the context of managing issues of governance.''
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So, what is the way ahead now for Akula, who feels "confident that the current leadership of SKS is well equipped to take SKS into the next phase of its evolution'' says in the media release: "I will, of course, remain committed to the sector, and will continue my involvement in the industry at a policy level. I will also be involved in a mobile banking initiative. This type of technology-with its ability to help lower costs and increase convenience-will create an improved platform for microfinance.''
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As for SKS Microfinance, much now depends on what steps its leadership now takes in reviving the company, which in the last quarter reported record losses. Ravikumar, who has been on the board of SKS for five years and also the chairperson of the audit committee of the board of SKS Microfinance for four years and now takes over as the new non-executive chairperson-Interim of the Company with immediate effect has a job cut out for him and for his management team.