Imagination is power: Muhammad Yunus


by Nicole Richards,  March 14, 2017

Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus on why human beings are born to be entrepreneurs; philanthropy as social business investor; achieving ‘super happiness’; sharing failure; challenging the financial system; combatting inequality and more. 

“Well hello!” exclaims Professor Muhammad Yunus happily as he re-positions his headphones and peers into the Skype screen.

“It’s good to see you!” he continues, waving as if we were old friends.

Perhaps effusive greetings are standard practice for Nobel Peace Prize winners—I figure it would take a lot to dim the light of someone whose humanitarian efforts have taken them all the way to Oslo. Still, I’m relieved he’s in a jovial mood, despite the tech issues in Bangladesh that have delayed our scheduled start time.

Muhammad Yunus’ efforts as a pioneer of microfinance and social business have been recognised globally. At last count, that includes 112 awards from 26 countries and 55 honorary degrees. His Nobel Peace Prize (2006) was followed by the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded by President Obama in 2009 and the Congressional Gold Medal (2010).

In 2012 Fortune magazine named him “one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time.”

Promoting social entrepreneurship is the key reason for Professor Yunus’ upcoming visit to Australia, culminating in the Australasian Social Business Forum in Melbourne on April 6.

As you’ll glean from the conversation that follows, the vision of Muhammad Yunus remains vast. His wish list is as ambitious as ever and his commitment to imagining and achieving social change is steadfast.

“Existing banks serve to rich, not to poor people”

Published by: The AsiaN

Published Date: 24 November, 2016


Prof. Muhammad Yunus is an extraordinary person who created a totally different perspective for social inequality. He is an intellectual, benevolent, banker, social entrepreneur, economist, and civil society leader as well as being an inventor of vital economic terms for poor people. His great initiative, the Grameen Bank helped poor people and gave a chance to them to be investors. In 2006, the bank and its founder, Muhammad Yunus, were jointly awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize because of his efforts for the social development.

Mehmet Fatih Oztarsu, The MagazineN reporter, made an interview with him for our valuable readers.

1. Mr. Yunus, you have been inspired by the Bangladesh famine of 1974 and you followed a creative way for your rural economic program. Can you tell us about that process?

I was shocked by the famine of 1974. I was teaching as an economics professor at Chittagong University in Bangladesh in the year 1974. I felt what teach in the classroom is all fairy tales, it has no relevance to the reality of the people who were dying of hunger. I felt that I am a useless person having no usefulness to other people. I wanted to make myself useful in some ways to the people in the village next door. That’s when I started visiting the village almost every day to see if can make myself useful to at least one person each day. In the process, I got to know the people in the village. I keep seeing the horrible system of loan sharking which takes away everything poor borrowers got by exploitative conditionality. In order to protect the poor, I started lending money myself. People loved it. I was happy because I could see my work was being appreciated by the poor people. This was the beginning of my lending money to the poor people. Since much more wanted to borrow money from me I transformed it into a bank in 1983. We called it Grameen Bank, or village bank.

The man behind a quiet revolution

Published Date: September 4, 2016
Published by: Thailand



Exclusive Interview
The Nation September 4, 2016 1:00 am

Nation Multimedia Group editorial board adviser Suthichai Yoon talks with 2006 Nobel laureate and microcredit pioneer Muhammad Yunus, the architect of a movement sweeping through Fortune 500 companies, and a ‘Three Zeros’ action plan to preserve the world for future generations

Recognised globally for pioneering the concepts of microcredit and microfinance, Bangladesh national Muhammad Yunus proved that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development. Founder of Bangladesh's Grameen (Village) Bank, which has been providing access to credit for the poor for more than 30 years, he has today turned his attention to what he calls "social business". This aims to overcome poverty through non-loss, non-dividend companies dedicated entirely to achieving a social goal. Under this model investors get their investment money back over time, but never receive dividends beyond the initial amount. "Social business," he told Forbes magazine last year, is a complement to traditional profit-maximising business.

You came from Rio, what were you doing at the Olympics?

I was a torchbearer and I was also invited to address the International Olympic Committee meeting on why [sport] should have social dimensions. No matter whether it's a global, regional, national or local event, if a national Olympic committee gets the idea to do something special with the social dimensions, a huge number [of people] will get involved.

What are the social aspects of sport?

Several things. For example, there are four cities in the running to host the Olympics in 2024, Paris, Budapest, Rome and Los Angeles, selected on the basis of an eligibility checklist. If you put one more condition in that list - the number of social businesses you have in your city - then everyone becomes conscious of it. So candidates have to start social business, otherwise they might not qualify. You don't need to spend any money, but people become aware about social businesses.

A selected host like Rio must have a legacy programme, [detailing] what you will leave behind [after the Olympics]. The poor, slum children who don't have education, healthcare - these are all legacy [issues]. You have to build business fund to this city, before and after. It's not just one shot and then forget.

Bring in educational programmes for students to learn about it. Young people love this idea. They want to get involved [because they look up to] national heroes - the gold-medal winners.

What young people do when they get into a university is they want to mobilise. [In sporting heroes] you have the mobilising force, you have the power to convince.

Private companies hire these celebrities to sell their products. We are already using [this power, but] for commercial purposes.

But is social business sustainable?

Yes, endlessly so. That's why you have to transform one into the other. You don't have to spend any extra. When I presented this [idea] in Rio, everybody loved it. They kept asking question after question. And after this, I was invited by the other candidate city, Paris. They want to pick up the [social businesses] idea quickly.

So, when any country seeks to host the Olympics in the future it will have to meet this standard?

Absolutely. Without meeting this standard, they cannot compete. That means you have to be better than the others. This is important as sports are about competitions. So you compete to do good for the young people.

Muhammad Yunus sees 'lots of possibilities' in Uniqlo venture

June 10, 2016

Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, spoke with The Nikkei about his experience with Uniqlo and his views on social business.

Q: Why did you decide to work with Uniqlo?

A: We did not particularly choose Uniqlo. It was a chance meeting with Tadashi Yanai [the chairman and CEO of Uniqlo] that got things going. I was invited to one of his programs, and I said that we should collaborate on a social business in Bangladesh. Then he agreed. It happened just by chance, and I had no idea about Uniqlo.

I knew little about Mr. Yanai when I first met him, except that he was one of the biggest tycoons in Japan. He is a very nice person, very friendly and down to earth, with a lot of interest in helping poor people and explaining how the project could be done. I said to him, "Let's give it a try. I don't know how this will shape up, but there are lots of possibilities."
He sent some people to Bangladesh to talk to me and design a business. After all of this discussion, we came up with an idea.

Q: What is the role of Grameen Bank in the joint venture with Uniqlo?

A: Basically, our role is to clarify the concept so that the company knows exactly what it means to be a social business. It is one thing to read a book about social business, but when you design something, you have to be very clear about the concept.

A company cannot do everything. It needs direction to reach its objective. We keep the company focused on the objective and help it meet its goal. We provide support in terms of our local knowledge, for example, how to lower costs, how to do marketing, and what should and should not be included. These are not orders. We give advice, and they can decide what to accept and what to hold onto for another day.

You cannot achieve the objective from day one. It is a step-by-step journey.

The idea is, if you finally make it happen the way we imagined, other government sectors and other companies, big and small, will become interested. Everybody wants to do a social business, but they do not know how. So, it is the development of a prototype, and what we are doing with Uniqlo is a good example. Once people say, "Ah, this is what you meant. We can do that, too," it helps them on their way.

Q: How do you see the progress of your social business with Uniqlo?

A: All businesses have their ups and downs. We had problems at different stages.
In the early stages of our work with Danone [which also formed a joint venture with Grameen Bank], we had problems, too.

With what we are doing, we want to make products very inexpensive so poor people can afford them. We have to be sustainable, and at the same time, reach the poor. The hard thing to do is balance the cost and the price. It is a very difficult job.

We have similar problems in every social business we do, but nobody gave up. They simply kept trying. Giving up is not an option for us. Some solved the problem by subsidizing costs, by selling goods to the rich and using that money to subsidize the poor. That is one solution, but there are many others.

Yunus as nonviolent revolutionary activist

Source:, Published Date: 20.03.2016, Author: Leopoldo Salmaso

Yunus at Abu Dhabi Summit (Image by Leopoldo Salmaso)

20.03.2016 - Leopoldo Salmaso
Worldwide, Microcredit is associated with the name of charismatic Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace laureate together with Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank: “for their efforts to create economic and social development from below… Lasting peace cannot be achieved if large populations cannot find the way to escape the grip of poverty. Microcredit is one such way. The development from below also promotes democracy and human rights”.

The Grameen Bank has achieved astonishing figures in the first twelve years of its activity: nearly 3,000 delivery points with 27,000 employees across Bangladesh; loans averaging 200 US$ have benefitted 7.5 million customers in 80,000 villages, with a repayment rate close to 98%. The Grameen( meaning village in Bengali) model is replicated worldwide by public and private institutions.

Professor Yunus participated in most of the working sessions of this summit (18th Microcredit Summit, Abu Dhabi, U.A.E., March 14-17, 2016), oftentimes accepting being besieged by the participants even during intervals and afterwards. One asking for advice, someone wanting him to know about his or her organization, someone just to take a picture by his side…

Leopoldo Salmaso: Professor Yunus, now it all seems relatively easy, this Microcredit scheme, but how difficult was it to start off from scratch, especially in a poor country like Bangladesh?

Yunus: I keep saying that that was my luck, and I really believe it. If there are no obstacles, there is no stimulation to overcome them. I also say to young people today; look for challenges! Today’s young people have an incredible tool, telematic technology [branch of information technology which deals with the long-distance transmission of computerized information]. They can feel content in the leisure pursuits that it offers… or they can use it to explore a bigger world until recently unimaginable, especially in the field of microcredit. Even the virtual scenarios, with today’s technology, are a great opportunity. Because they allow you to imagine something that does not exist; and if there was no imagination like that there would be no creation of new things. Therefore I repeat to young people; look for challenges, and dream about how to overcome them!

Leopoldo Salmaso: Professor, you have repeated on several occasions that in the universe of Microcredit there is room for either pure ‘welfarist’ activities and for-profit enterprises. But the coexistence of actors with so different motivations, does it not create conflict, or at least confusion?

Yunus: The conflict is part of life, and I reiterate that the challenges are opportunities more than obstacles. The only thing that truly one owes to himself and to others is clarity. Want to make Microcredit for pure social inclusion? Welcome! Want to do Microcredit for your personal profit? Welcome! Want to do half and half, or a mix in any proportion? Welcome!

Leopoldo Salmaso: And what is your personal choice? Don’t you feel uncomfortable to be here today in this luxurious setting while thinking of the poor people who will return to besiege you tomorrow in a remote village?

Yunus: My choice was and remains to work from below. But today I am happy and grateful to be here, together with all these wonderful people who share my same goal and who declare clearly how they intend to pursue it.

Leopoldo Salmaso: You certainly deserved the Nobel Prize for Peace, but in the first instance your innovation belongs to economics: did they assign you to the wrong prize category?

Yunus: (lighting up in a knowing smile) Well, this question should be asked of them!

Leopoldo Salmaso: Well yes, but “they” – those who award the Nobel Prize for Economics – they are not the same ones who award the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Yunus: True, “they” are those of the Bank of Sweden …

Leopoldo Salmaso: The establishment of the Nobel Prize for Economics took place seventy years after Nobel. The committee dared assigning a number of “their” awards to non-orthodox economists, provided their criticism was restricted to purely theoretical grounds. So I ask: couldn’t they assign it to you, as you have put into place a practical economic revolution of historic proportions?

Yunus: (with that same smile on his face) An intriguing question… Also to be asked of them!

Leopoldo Salmaso: OK, let’s leave them alone and go back to you. As a banker you gave credit to the poor, and as a Muslim male you gave credit to the women, then you are a double revolutionary?

Yunus: I am one who likes challenges. The challenge I faced was actually a double and great one, but it was enough to pick it up and the way for its solution became obvious and workable.

Leopoldo Salmaso: You continue to be modest. The poor and the women are still the biggest victims of violence on earth. So you are a global nonviolent revolutionary.

Yunus: Thank you. But then, if nonviolence is the main road to peace, you too will have to admit that, perhaps, they did not award me the wrong Nobel!

Published Date: 20.03.2016
Author: Leopoldo Salmaso tellyseries