Iqbal Quadir

Founder and Director of the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT

Founder and former CEO of Grameenphone in Bangladesh

Iqbal Quadir is an advocate of business as a humanitarian tool. With GrameenPhone, he brought the first commercial telecom services to poor areas of Bangladesh. His latest project will help rural entrepreneurs build power plants.


Iqbal Z. Quadir is a long-time champion of the critical role of entrepreneurship and innovations in creating prosperity in low-income countries. Iqbal Quadir is an accomplished entrepreneur who, more than two decades ago, saw the potential of mobile technology to transform low-income countries.

Iqbal Quadir realized in the early 1990s that the ensuing digital revolution could facilitate the introduction of telephone access throughout Bangladesh, including its rural areas. To make this vision a reality, he established a New York based company, Gonofone Development Corp (meaning  “phones for the masses” in Bengali), and assembled a global consortium of Gonofone, micro-credit pioneer Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, and Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor to create Grameenphone. Grameenphone is now Bangladesh’s leading telecommunications operator providing access to more than 50 million subscribers irrespective of their geographic location or economic standing.

From 2001-2004, Iqbal Quadir was a Fellow and Lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School, focusing on the democratizing effects of technologies in low-income countries. He co-founded the journal Innovations (MIT Press) and, in 2005, moved to MIT where he founded the Legatum Center in 2007. Quadir founded Emergence BioEnergy to produce decentralized energy, and in 2010 co-founded Money in Motion, a start-up company to provide mobile phone-based banking services. He sits on the Advisory Council of the World Wide Web Foundation.

Quadir’s work and thinking has been cited in 70 books and profiled in publications including The Economist, the Financial Times,, andThe New York Times. His writing has been published in the Financial Times, Harvard Business Review, Nature, Newsweek, Science, and The Wall Street Journal.He received the prestigious Science, Education and Economic Development award in Bangladesh and was listed as one of 125 Influential People and Ideas for the 125-year celebration of the Wharton School in 2006. He is the recipient of the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Swarthmore College (2011), the honorary Doctor of Science from Case Western Reserve University (2011), and the Russell-Whitehead Business Humanitarian Award presented by the Business Humanitarian Forum Association (2012). He holds both an MBA and an MA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and a BS with honors from Swarthmore College.


«Bottom-Up Entrepreneurship»

The economic growth unleashed by mobile phones throughout the developing world is a valuable example of how economic and social progress can result when the interests of businesses and ordinary people become aligned. Businesses and entrepreneurs delivering productivity-enhancing technologies and innovations in this context can create economic and social value by activating a key, under-used resource in low-income countries: people. Because productivity tools empower people to use their time more efficiently, capitalize on opportunities, and achieve and earn more, people can afford the very tools and services that boost their productivity in the first place. By responding to people’s willingness to pay for enhanced productivity, businesses and entrepreneurs delivering such tools can build viable businesses and invest in infrastructure. Mobile phones are just one example of a productivity tool that has both empowered people and led to the creation of vast business opportunities.

There are countless other productivity tools – and innovative permutations and combinations of existing tools and platforms – that could hold the same promise. Therefore, there is tremendous opportunity for businesses, entrepreneurs, inventors, and investors to develop and deliver the new productivity tools that will align the interests of businesses and ordinary people, unleashing a virtuous cycle of economic and social progress.


Business Development

Connectivity is productivity

Technologic Tools



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Iqbal Quadir