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Rani Deshpande ’03: International microfinance
Rani Deshpande says her experience as a Peace Corps volunteer convinced her of the importance of access to finance for microentrepreneurs. In West Africa, she advised agricultural and women’s cooperatives on how to invest small pools of capital scraped together from their meager earnings. “Helping people figure out how to turn $100 into a viable business showed me the value of even the smallest amounts of capital for entrepreneurs in countries like Benin,” she says.
Deshpande decided to enter the MBA/Master of International Affairs dual-degree program to explore the field of microfinance and to gain the business-management skills needed to run a successful microfinance institution. “I needed both sets of skills to make an impact in this field — the ability to run a business as well as an understanding of economic development,” she says.
Deshpande now works at the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), a donor consortium on microfinance housed at the World Bank that aims to help build financial systems that serve the poor in developing countries. Her work focuses on the private sector and entrepreneurs. “I deal with public-private partnership issues, such as competition, subsidies and development impact,” she explains, “and I apply traditional business skills like financial analysis and strategy to nontraditional situations.”
Deshpande’s current work includes designing a program to help microfinance institutions negotiate relationships with multinational financial-services companies and performing due diligence on privatizing African banks to assess their potential for providing large-scale microfinance services. “When I was in graduate school, it was sometimes hard to see the connection between all my different courses in social enterprise, finance, development and the core,” she says. “But it’s incredible how much what I do now draws on all these areas.