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View all (442) posts » Case Writing Competition Winner Explores How Microfinance Can be Sustainable

Posted By Scott Anderson, Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Scott Anderson

In October 2012, the IFC lent Bank Tabungan Pensiunan Nasional Tbk (BTPN) $100 million to finance small and micro enterprises, including women entrepreneurs.

The financing, which was six times the amount IFC provided to BTPN in 2009, marked a significant milestone for the Indonesian bank. But just a few years earlier, BTPN President Jerry Ng faced the dilemma of how to grow the business and continue its social mission through microfinance.

The key question: Should BTPN expand its micro-lending services for base of the pyramid businesses and other low-income customers given the backlash the industry was facing? Remember, this was a time of crisis for microfinance institutions MFIs, as many borrowers defaulted and each day brought new stories of predatory lending practices around the world. It was a prudent question for bankers, especially one the size of BTPN, which today has a market capitalization of around $2.8 billion.

Next Billion Case Writing CompetitionHow Ng managed that decision-making process and how the bank continues to service low-income borrowers is the subject of the winner of the NextBillion’s Case Writing Contest. The case, "BTPN: Banking for the Bottom of the Pyramid in Indonesia,” was written by R. Ryan Nelson, professor of commerce information technology, Carl Zeithaml, dean of the McIntire School, and alumnus Gardner Bell, all from the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce in Charlottesville. The first place team will receive $3,500 in prize money. This year’s competition is sponsored by the Citi Foundation and administered by GlobaLens, publishing division of the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan. Zeithaml explained that the concept for the case began when he met Ng in 2010 in Jakarta.

"Jerry gave a presentation on the mission, strategy, and processes of BTPN to a group of our global immersion students, and it was clearly an extraordinary organization that was extremely successful on all dimensions, including offering critical services to help small business people who normally do not have access to reputable financial services,” Zeithaml said. "Since then, BTPN expanded these opportunities to the productive poor, and Jerry and his leadership team continue to develop innovative approaches that are changing the banking industry. We believe that it is essential to expose our students to these new strategies and models, as an example of great business practices, and to demonstrate ways to apply business skills for a variety of positive outcomes.”

BTPN President Jerry Ng (second from right) is the subject of the winning case in the NextBillion Case Writing Competition. Image credit: AFP.

BTPN President Jerry Ng (second from right) is the subject of the winning case in the NextBillion Case Writing Competition. Image credit: AFP.

The University of Virginia’s case and the other 2013 winning cases have been edited and published by GlobaLens, and are now available at the links included in the descriptions below. A team from Grand Valley State University’s Seidman College of Business in Grand Rapids Michigan won second place and $2,500 in prize money for their case, "Hydraid: Safe Water for the Base of the Pyramid,” about Triple Quest, which produces a low-cost water filtration system. Coming in third place and receiving $1,000 was a team from Colorado State University’s College of Business in Fort Collins for their case "Ayzh at a Crossroad: Maternal Health for Whom?” which looks at how and where to grow a social venture focused on improving maternal health in developing countries.

Two honorable mention cases also have been published by GlobaLens. All of the 2013 winning cases have been added to GlobaLens’ Base of the Pyramid Collection, one of the largest available from any publisher. Each will be marketed to top business schools worldwide for adoption in business courses.

This is the third NextBillion Case Writing Competition, which recognizes and publishes the strongest case studies about business strategies aimed at alleviating poverty. We took a year off in 2012, and when we started it up again I was a bit nervous we would nervous that we wouldn’t be able to regain the momentum from the previous years. But this year’s competition attracted the largest group of students and professors to date, with more than 150 people entering individually or as part of a team. Entrants represented more than 50 universities and 11 countries.

Clearly there is widespread demand from professors and their students for rigorous case studies and research that pulls the curtain back on what it takes to build and sustain a successful social enterprise. I'm proud that NextBillion, in concert with contest sponsor Citi Foundation and GlobaLens, can help to serve as a platform for sharing this knowledge. We also should give a tip of the hat to the judges who gave their time and thoughtful consideration for the finalists. They included Robert Kennedy, executive director of the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan; Hui Wen Chan, impact analytics and planning officer at the Citi Foundation; M.S. Krishnan, Accenture professor of computer and information systems at the University of Michigan – Ross School of Business; and Stuart Hart, Samuel C. Johnson chair in sustainable global enterprise and professor of management at Cornell University – Johnson School of Management.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s contest.

>> Click here to see the list of winners on Scott's official blog at


Scott Anderson is the Managing Editor of at the University of Michigan's William Davidson Institute.  He is a writer, editor, blogger and social media practitioner with more than 15 years in media.

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