Grassroots and Development Category

Dr. Sameer Sawarkar

Sameer Sawarkar, founder and CEO of Neurosynaptic Communications Pvt, Ltd developed ReMeDi™ solution for rural telemedicine. With an acute shortage of doctors in rural areas patients travel long distances for primary healthcare, obtain healthcare late in the disease cycle and spend significantly higher amounts. Medical expenses increase making healthcare the second largest reason of rural debt. Sawarkar and TeNeT group of IIT Madras reduced this gap in the healthcare delivery for the rural population through their technology.

Telemedicine and medical equipment required for traditional telemedicine are unaffordable to most rural populations. Power availability, connectivity and non-availability of skilled medical practitioners pose further constraints. ReMeDi telemedicine solution overcomes these issues with the cost per consultation being less than a dollar per teleconsultation. This solution has been commercially deployed in rural Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra and is been used by institutional customers in Singapore, Nigeria, Tunisia, and Netherlands. Sawarkar's business models for semi-urban and rural areas influenced over 800 village patients to use ReMeDi solution for their healthcare needs.

Sawarkar received Master's degree with distinction in Electrical Communication Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. With Rank one, he received Bachelor's degree in Electronics Engineering from Govt. College of Engineering, Amravati.

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Dr. Vikram Akula

Vikram Akula is the CEO and founder of SKS Microfinance, which offers microloans and insurance to poor women in impoverished areas of India. Today, SKS is one of the fastest growing microfinance institutions in the world, having provided over $72 million in loans to nearly 300,000 people in the nation. Last year, SKS achieved nearly 161% portfolio growth, and a 98% on-time repayment rate. SKS has achieved this success in microfinance by achieving high operational efficiency and lowering transaction costs through the use of innovative technologies and business practices at the grassroots. It is one of the first microfinance institutions to have a fully-automated Management Information System, and has pioneered the use of Smart-Card technology at the village-level. SKS is currently working on a pilot project to develop and deploy wireless Point of Sale devices that would automate field operations and further reduce transaction costs.

Vikram has over a decade of work and research experience in microfinance. He has also been a management consultant at McKinsey & Company. As a Fulbright Scholar in India, he coordinated an action-research project on providing micro-credit for food security. He was also a researcher with the Worldwatch Institute, where he wrote articles focused on poverty and development. Vikram holds a B.A. from Tufts, an M.A. from Yale, and has a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. His Ph.D. dissertation focused on the impact of microfinance. He has received several awards for his work with SKS, including the Echoing Green Public Service Entrepreneur Fellowship. Vikram was recently also named to Time Magazine's 100 people of the year in 2006.

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