Summary: Learning from “A Fistful of Rice” by Vikram Akula

The goal of eradicating big problems like poverty has always been out-of-reach of
common individuals because of the massive scale in which these problems exist. While the
common approach of solving big problems is volunteering with or starting-up a non-profit
organization, Vikram Akula, the author and protagonist of A Fistful of Rice, envisioned reducing
poverty through a profitable microfinance venture – SKS Microfinance, which has now grown to
improve millions of lives.
A Fistful of Rice depicts the process of one man trying to solve the big problem of
poverty by using an unconventional approach. The essay analyzes this process and understands
how his approach was successful. It focuses on understanding the nature of poverty, the previous
attempts of resolving it, and Akula’s approach towards it. It also looks at four aspects of Akula’s
approach that could potentially be used to solve other big problems:
1) Talk and listen to the owners of the problem
2) Approach the problem at its “point of greatest astonishment”
3) Venture beyond social constraints
4) Think beyond the obvious and leverage economies of scale
While the aforementioned approaches are not applicable to solving all big problems across
several industries, they are essential to several developmental organizations and social
entrepreneurs.

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