Iqbal Z. Quadir
Iqbal Z. Quadir is the founder and director of the Legatum Center for Development and
Entrepreneurship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which promotes bottom-up
entrepreneurship in developing countries. In the 1990s, Quadir founded GrameenPhone, which
provides effective telephone access throughout Bangladesh.
Quadir is an accomplished entrepreneur who writes about the critical roles of
entrepreneurship and innovations in improving the economic and political conditions in
low-income countries. Quadir is often credited as having been the earliest observer of the
potential for mobile phones to transform ow-income countries. His work has been
recognized by leaders and organizations worldwide as a new and successful approach to
sustainable poverty alleviation.
For four years, Quadir taught at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard
University, focusing on the impact of technologies in the politics and economics of
developing countries. In 2005, he moved to MIT. His particular research interest is in the
democratizing effects of technologies in developing countries with some of his initial
thoughts published in the Summer/Fall 2002 issue of The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs.
In 2006, Quadir co-founded the journal Innovations, published by MIT Press, which
highlights private efforts in public service. Quadir spent most of the 1990s founding and
building GrameenPhone Ltd., which has now become Bangladesh’s largest telephone company, with net
income of $250 million in 2006. His childhood exposure to the conditions in rural Bangladesh
combined with his later venture capital experience in New York led Quadir to recognize
that the ensuing digital revolution could facilitate the introduction of telephony to 100
million people living in rural Bangladesh. In 1994, he formally launched this effort by
convincing angel investors to establish a New York based company, Gonofone Development Corp
(meaning “phones for the masses”) to help him organize what subsequently became known as
Quadir’s vision of a large-scale, commercial project that could serve all urban areas and
68,000 villages in Bangladesh led him to organize a global consortium including Telenor
AS, the primary telephone company in Norway and an affiliate of micro-credit pioneer Grameen
Bank in Bangladesh. He attracted these investors by complementing his vision with a practical
distribution scheme whereby small entrepreneurs, backed by loans from Grameen Bank, could retail
telephone services to their surrounding communities. With the support of these
investors, GrameenPhone, established in late 1996, started building a new cellular network
and providing services to the public soon thereafter. To date, it has built the largest
cellular network in the country with investments of nearly $2 billion and a subscriber base of
nearly 20 million. Its rural program is already available in more than 60,000 villages,
providing telephone access to more than 100 million people, while helping to create 250,000
micro-entrepreneurs in these villages.
Quadir appeared on CBC, CNN and PBS and was profiled in feature articles in The Economist,
Boston Globe, Financial Times and The New York Times, and in several books. The World Economic
Forum, based in Geneva, Switzerland, selected him as a “Global Leader for Tomorrow.” In 2006,
Quadir was awarded the prestigious Science, Education and Economic Development (SEED) award
in Bangladesh. In spring 2007, Wharton Alumni Magazine selected Quadir for its list of 125
Influential People and Ideas on the occasion of the 125-year celebration of the Wharton School.
His work is referred to in 20 books and is prominently featured in the 2007 book, You Can
Hear Me Now, by Nicholas Sullivan (Jossey-Bass).
Earlier in his career, Quadir served as a vice president of Atrium Capital Corp., an associate
of Security Paciﬁc Merchant Bank, both in New York, and a consultant to the World Bank in
Washington DC. He received an MBA and an MA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania,
and a BS with honors from Swarthmore College.