September 4, 2007 By Indrajit Basu, International Correspondent
That's what happened to Iqbal Quadir way back in 1993, when this Wharton-educated Bangaldeshi national working as investment banker in Wall Street, realized that just like people find gold mines in "unglamorous companies" by buying them cheap and selling high, he too has an "unglamorous" country Bangladesh, whose huge population of very poor people could be an "asset" if only they could communicate.
Quadir knew that one of the biggest reasons why over 80 percent of his country's residents lived below what the world considers poverty level, is the fact that most homes in Bangladesh and virtually all rural villages lack telephone connectivity, making the nation one of the least wired in the world. So, if connectivity meant productivity, then it must be a weapon against poverty.
Thus in 1997 GrameenPhone was born (Grameen means rural in the local lingo) to offer affordable mobile phone services to as many people as possible.
However, it wasn't easy in the beginning. The country had a very large population of poor, who lived in places underserved to such an extent that it took four hours of walking to reach the nearest post office or a medicine shop. So how does one get a mobile phone to all those Bangladeshis, most of whom couldn't even afford to pay for a call, let alone afford to own a mobile telephone?
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