Business Today

From the editor

In a country where for decades profit wasn't something businesses were supposed to be proud of, starting a business that is based on making profit out of the poor is bound to be considered blasphemous. But what if one way to alleviate poverty is to profit from it? And what if this turns out to be the fastest and most direct way to reach the poor-without any help or intervention from the government?

Rohit Saran        Print Edition: December 14, 2008

In a country where for decades profit wasn't something businesses were supposed to be proud of, starting a business that is based on making profit out of the poor is bound to be considered blasphemous. But what if one way to alleviate poverty is to profit from it? And what if this turns out to be the fastest and most direct way to reach the poor-without any help or intervention from the government?

This is the biggest question confronting India's booming microfinance sector today. The person most responsible for this dilemma is Vikram Akula, Founder of what is now India's largest microfinance institution SKS. Admired and suspected in equal measure, Akula has grown too fast too soon for many observers' comfort. In the process, he may have drifted away from the core mission of microfinance-which is to help alleviate poverty. Akula, however, presents facts to the contrary, which are no less forceful. Our special report on microfinance takes you through all this, and more. Read it to decide if there is, indeed, fortune at the bottom of the pyramid and what is the best way to pursue it.

Our cover story traverses a very different world. It's a story of how the King of Good Times is fighting the bad times. The losses of Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines-once his pride and joy-are set to cross the profits of his group holding company UB in 2008-09. We track how arguably India's best airline (for passengers) landed into this sea of red, how that has humbled the irrepressible Mallya, and how he plans to fly high again.

The media is full of sensational exposes. But there are very few investigations that also yield readers utility value. Our Reporter's Diary attempts to do exactly that. To assess the extent of price correction in the residential real estate market, Business Today writers in three cities went out as incognito buyers to several residential properties. This is because queries as journalists got us nothing further than the "listed price". Our findings are interesting and useful. In most cases, listed price is the price at which the bargain starts and the real price comes down by anywhere between 10-25 per cent. This is one of the most visible signs of the economic slowdown, the fallout of which will manifest itself in several ways-some good (e.g., lower housing prices) and some not so good (fewer jobs and lower incomes for plenty of businesses).

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