Inspiring: Speech for a better world by Muhammad Yunus

“Are we all money making machines? Is this what human beings are here for?”

Today, let me share with you an inspiring speech for a better world, by Muhammad Yunus.

You may not know who this man is, so before watching his speech, make sure to read this paragraph!
Yunus is Bangladeshi, born in 1940 from a wealthy family in the Chittagong district (yes, where Rupa is from too!). He studied arts in his country, then economy in the US. He started to work for a government agency, in which he felt quite useless, then he worked for the Economical department of Chittagong University, but again, seeing all the poverty around him, he felt that teaching theories does not help the poor people next door.

So he went, with some of his students, to one of the village next to the university. He met a woman who was doing very nice stools, but was earning only 20 cents per day. Curious, he tried to understand why. There was actually a trader that lent her some money to buy bamboo, the raw material of her stools, under the condition he could buy the stool at his own price. Yunus saw here that this woman was dependant from the trader because she had no money to buy bamboo herself. He went and met other people from the same village, and gathered 42 people that needed 30 USD, all together. Banks did not want to lend them money because these people could not offer any guarantee. Banks actually lend only to already rich people

That’s how he created the Grameen Bank, by lending himself these 30 USD. Again, you may not have heard about this bank, but it’s actually the bank with which Yunus invented micro-credit. All this story has taken place back in 1976! Now micro-credit is a well-known mechanism, aiming at lending small amounts to people who do not enjoy a credit-history, and thus cannot go to traditional banks. These micro-credits can empower poor people to create their business. In the example of the woman making stools, she could now buy the bamboo herself, decide the price of her stools herself, and stop being dependant of the trader. The guarantee is not an employment contract or a house given by the borrower, but the Grameen Bank is lending money to small groups of 5 people, that collectively commit to ensure repayment of the loans.

This, of course, may not solve poverty as Yunus tends to say. We are talking of debt, and startups created thanks to these small loans have about the same success rate as the others, meaning quite a lot of them fail within one or two years… But at least it’s an awesome way to help and give hope to lots of people, first in Bangladesh but now everywhere on the planet. In 2012, more than 3000 institutions like the Grameen Bank have lended more than 90 billions of dollars in microcredits! Muhammad Yunus and his bank, inventors of the microcredit, have both received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

Enough said about this man and his first (!) initiative. Time to watch his inspiring speech about business. And how business can be people-centered instead of only money-making.

“Are we all money making machines? Is this what human beings are here for?”

This is a sentence that rings a bell in our minds. That’s true that the social value of a business is barely taken into account. That’s the way capitalism works. A social business can be defined as a business aiming at maximizing improvement for human well-beings. As a consequence, it reinvests most (if not all) of its profit into itself, instead of giving it away as dividendes for shareholders. It is different from a charity in the sense that it is self-sustainable: it generates enough profits to operate and grow (but not more as it is not its first aim). Having only social businesses in the world looks utopian, but I’m sure we can have a lot more of these initiatives.

It is easier said than done! If working for a good cause seems pretty awesome, and it is!, it means a few things on the business you are running. For example, take the educational business. There is so much to do for the world, the way we teach things to kids today is just totally obsolete. Reading things in boring books with no sound, no immersion, no visualization looks more from the previous century. Today with virtual reality, interactive quizz, machine learning, we can teach things in a way better, way more personnalized, and way more accessible manner than ever before. But all this comes at a huge price of research and development, which means that you have to attract investors and talents in order to reach your goal of improving education for all. Unfortunately, as of today, you won’t have these investors and talents if you don’t reward them with… money.

As you can see, a social business does not mean that you do a “social job”. Not all of us are good at dealing directly with disadvantaged people (if you are “I” at the MBTI test for example, more on this topic in a coming post!). You can have a huge social impact by working on education, transport, logistics, etc. without being on the field. This is something to have in mind when we talk about social business: many people do not see themselves as teachers in the middle of Bangladesh, but these people can definitely be part of the story by working in the backend!

I think we can still introduce more social in businesses by changing our minds. In a lot of cases, making people happy and making money can be fully compatible, so there is something we can all do. This is where Yunus’ initiatives can inspire us! We need more men like him to show the way and change our mentality by showing that all this is possible. Moreover, making people happy may be the beginning of being happy yourself!

“The world is run by ideas, not theories. We made those theories, we can junk them anytime we want. We make the rules, we change the rules.”

This quotation talks more to our entrepreneurial side. This is a call to break rules and make new ones, a good way to be disruptive in an over ruled domain. Like Yunus did with the banking system. Together with his “start small, grow after” principle that is well known for all the lean startup addicts out there, that’s good advice to keep in mind to find and build a startup idea. As Yunus said, when you are an expert in a specific field, your mind tends to be framed by all the rules, and it’s not easy to think out of them. On the other side, when you do not know much of a topic, it’s not always easy to find a creative and innovative idea. The only hard part is to find the right balance!

3 thoughts on “Inspiring: Speech for a better world by Muhammad Yunus

  1. Great Article! Believe it or not I always thought of doing such type of thing but I did not know the name “Social Business” and then I would often think that I am insane and crazy to call such an activity a business. I blamed myself that I do not have the courage and guts to do a real Business-only making money. I thought myself to be a failure in this field. But now I am glad that there is such a thing called social business-making people happy and earning money. Till now I have not been able to do it but may be one day I pick up the courage to break the self imposed restrictions, fears, worries, concerns, rules etc etc etc.

    1. Hello Waheed! We understand your fears, this is (unfortunately!) not something very common to open a business with a social purpose first. There is a pressure from our peers to make money above all, but what is the most important is what _we_ think we want, and what makes _us_ happy. If this is something you want to create, go ahead! Don’t think of what some others will say and create something you will be proud of with yourself (and you will be supported by more people than you think). Good luck!

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