You Can Hear Me Now: How Microloans and Cell Phones are Connecting the World's Poor To the Global Economy
Nicholas P. Sullivan
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Bangladeshi villagers sharing cell phones helped build what is now a thriving company with more than $200 million in annual profits. But what is the lesson for the rest of the world? This is a question author Nicholas P. Sullivan addresses in his tale of a new kind of entrepreneur, Iqbal Quadir, the visionary and catalyst behind the creation of GrameenPhone in Bangladesh.
GrameenPhone—a partnership between Norway's Telenor and Grameen Bank, co-winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize—defines a new approach to building business opportunities in the developing world. You Can Hear Me Now offers a compelling account of what Sullivan calls the "external combustion engine"—a combination of forces that is sparking economic growth and lifting people out of poverty in countries long dominated by aid-dependent governments. The "engine" comprises three forces: information technology, imported by native entrepreneurs trained in the West, backed by foreign investors.
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well there—everything was dependent on that connection. It made it seem to me that the government was functioning for the privileged and connected. If my father had lived, I might have just moved into Dhaka or Jessore society and taken advantage. I might not have been as driven.” A Teenager Emigrates to the United States Quadir did well enough on his SATs (including a 770 score in the Physics SAT II Achievement Test) to win a scholarship to Waldorf College, in Iowa, from which he transferred to
it may seem that a cell license is a license to print money, you do have to use guts and guile to deploy capital if you are in a competitive market. That’s something Sawiris knows how to do. In less than a year, Orascom invested $250 million in Sheba, started a pricing war with GrameenPhone, and added 1 million new customers. Orascom also lost license bids in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria. OTH owns 100 percent of Iraqna, the first mobile provider in Iraq. Security costs for two years reached
gives customers a Maestro branded debit card to use at ATMs and retail outlets. Celpay, a former subsidiary of Celtel that is now owned by First Rand Bank of South Africa, issues SIM cards through cell phone companies, and these cards allow customers to make bill payments, store value, and transfer money. Its Web advertising aptly describes the informal cash economy of Africa: “Until now, many customers in Africa have had little choice but to use cash for all their purchases. They have had to
Smart Money or even PayPal, which tie customers to one vendor, OneWallet probably has more potential appeal in developed markets where people have multiple relationships with financial institutions. But Pitroda, who is licensing OneWallet to companies such as Motorola, predicts global acceptance. “Worldwide, there are 2 billion cell phone users, but not 2 billion checking accounts,” says Pitroda, who has received seven patents for OneWallet (with twenty-three more pending). “In India, there are