Hyderabad, India – Recognized for his vision and leadership as the Founder and CEO of SKS Microfinance, one of the world’s fastest growing microfinance institutions, Vikram Akula has been named by TIME Magazine as one of “The People Who Shape Our World” for 2006. The annual list that celebrates the lives and ideas of the world’s most influential people was released today and includes global leaders such as Bill Clinton, Bill & Melinda Gates and George W. Bush.

Vikram joins Nandan Nilekani, Infosys Founder and President, as one of two Indians to make the list. He was highlighted for his work as a pioneer in the microfinance industry and dedication to improving the lives of the poor in India.

A native of Hyderabad, Vikram founded SKS in 1998 to empower the poor to become economically self-reliant by providing financial services in a sustainable way. “Even though it’s my name on the list, the true honorees are our clients across the country who struggle everyday to overcome poverty and inspire us with their courage,” said Vikram. “I started SKS because I was overwhelmed by the poverty I saw in India and was looking for a way to catalyze rapid economic development for the poor,” he continued.

Today, SKS is one of the fastest growing microfinance organizations in the world, having disbursed over $52 million (Rs 240 crores) in loans to 221,000 women clients in poor regions of India. “This is a great recognition of the pioneering microfinance movement in Andhra Pradesh. It highlights the tremendous groundwork done by microfinance practitioners—both government and private institutions—in bringing finance to the poor,” added Vikram.

Vikram has dedicated much of his professional life to addressing India’s poverty. Prior to launching SKS, Vikram was a Fulbright Scholar in India, during which he coordinated a government-funded (Jawahar Rozgar Yojana) action-research project on providing microfinance for food security. He has also worked as a community organizer with the Deccan Development Society in Andhra Pradesh and as a researcher with the Worldwatch Institute, where he wrote articles on poverty and development. He holds an BA from Tufts, an MA from Yale and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, where his dissertation focused on poverty alleviation strategies.