New Delhi In a world grappling with social inequality, wars and climate change, this Nobel Laureate’s lessons on The world of three zeroes: zero poverty, zero unemployment and zero carbon emissions definitely made sense for management students. Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, banker, economist, civil society leader and the founder of microcredit pioneering Grameen Bank, Mohd Yunus, was delivering the Arijit Mukherji Memorial Lecture at the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta on Tuesday.
Professor Yunus, who invented social business and earned a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in alleviating poverty, is one of today’s most trenchant social critics. Through the lecture he shared his insights on zero poverty, zero unemployment, and zero carbon emissions. It was time to admit that the capitalist engine had broken down. In its current form it inevitably led to rampant inequality, massive unemployment, and environmental destruction, he said.
To save human kind and the planet, he said that there was a need for a new economic system based on a more realistic vision of human nature; one that recognised altruism and generosity as driving forces that were just as fundamental and powerful as self-interest.
About his own experience as a social entrepreneur, Yunus, who left a university job to return to Bangladesh after its liberation said he created about 50 companies not to make profits but to “solve problems.” Seeing the “depots of diseases” in the country “we came up with health programmes.” Battles were launched to help children overcome diseases like malnutrition, night blindness and other diseases. However, it was done in such a way that it became self sustaining.
Yunus said when people asked him how any business could survive without profits, his response was: “What’s wrong with not taking the profit? Business also means exchanging money between consumers and producers in a sustainable way. If I do not take profits is it illegal? Would I be jailed?”
To him, what was more exciting than making profits was creating a company to solve problems – some of his companies with a pan-Bangladesh presence had been created to solve a specific problem. “It is like solving a puzzle, do you make a profit by solving a puzzle?” he asked.
Yunus also said he disagreed with critics who said the purpose of any business would be defeated by giving away its most fundamental and vital incentive, the profit. If making money is happiness then making other people happy by solving problems is super happiness, he said.
On the success of his solar energy project, Grameen Shakti, Younus said when he wanted to bring solar energy to rural Bangladeshi villages which went dark at night, people tried to put him off by saying it did not make sense. “We started by selling four to five (solar power) systems a month and today Grameen Shakti powers1.8 million homes with solar energy, its so popular now,” he said, amid applause.
“It’s a big reward for IIM Calcutta fraternity to have the opportunity of listening to the subject involving poverty, unemployment, and carbon emission from no other than Prof Mohd Yunus,” said Prof Uttam Kumar Sarkar, dean (new initiatives and external relations), IIM Calcutta.