What’s keeping three billion people from climbing out of poverty? Accion President and CEO Michael Schlein and New York restaurateur Roni Mazumdar talk with Billy Shore about the importance of financial inclusion and creating an economic system that works for everyone. “It’s really hard to imagine anyone working their way out of poverty without some of the most basic financial tools—a safe place to save, access to credit, efficient payments, insurance,” says Schlein. Accion provided capital that helped young entrepreneur Mazumdar save his first business after hurricane Sandy devastated the region. “People don’t realize how important it is to survive that first year… Within two weeks, I had the money to continue to operate,” he recounts.
Schlein explains Accion’s market-based strategy for investing in financial technology companies and the people they ultimately help. “We’re a nonprofit, but we’re a big believer in harnessing the capital markets to change the world,” he explains. Mazumdar talks about his personal philanthropic initiative to alleviate poverty in India by improving access to education for girls. “There is a human being [in India] who is no different than I am. I happen to be in a position that is far more fortunate, so therefore, it’s imperative that I do something,” he says.
Listen to this engaging conversation about helping the billions of people who are invisible to the financial system that many of us take for granted.
Resources and Mentions:
- No Kid Hungry (nokidhungry.org): Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is ending child hunger in America by ensuring all children get the healthy food they need, every day.
- Roni Mazumdar is a New York-based restaurateur and the creative vision behind three Indian restaurants in New York City: Adda, Rahi, and The MasalaWala. He is also an actor and producer, known for 9 Eleven (2011), Uncommitted (2015) and The Word Trader (2013), as well as Founder/CEO of tech startup WonkWall. He has used his success to benefit his community, establishing a scholarship program in West Bengal, India, working to empower victims of abuse and trafficking in New York, and staffing and training students from LaGuardia Community College’s Food Service Management Program.
- The MasalaWala features South Asian street style cuisine in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Rahi was named Zagat’s hottest new restaurant in 2017. Adda is an Indian canteen in Long Island City. It was named one of the top 10 best new restaurants in NYC last year by the New York Times.
- Michael Schlein is president and CEO of Accion. He brings nearly 30 years of extensive international banking, management and public service experience to his role as President and CEO of Accion. He is responsible for creating and implementing Accion’s strategy, managing its global team, and building a high-performing organization. Schlein builds partnerships with the public and private sector, encouraging more energy, investments, and action directed at creating a financially inclusive world. In 2014, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed Schlein to serve as the Chairman of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, which encourages economic growth throughout New York City’s five boroughs and facilitates investments that build capacity, generate prosperity, and catalyze the economic vibrancy of city life as a whole. Schlein has graduate and undergraduate degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa.
- Accion works to build a financially inclusive world with access to economic opportunity for all. Its mission is to give people the financial tools they need to improve their lives. Accion has proven that financial services can be made available; that individual lives and the prosperity of communities can be significantly enhanced; and that this can be done at scale and sustainably. Their work helps people, small businesses, and communities grow and thrive. Since its founding in 1961, they have challenged and engaged the industry, its leaders, and its regulators to achieve a financially inclusive world and reached tens of millions of families and entrepreneurs in 50 countries.