Nobel Laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus has been named by Fortune magazine as one of the 12 Greatest Entrepreneurs of Our Time.
This list published in the magazine's latest issue places Prof Yunus among the band of highly exclusive individuals, all of whom are known throughout the world for their innovation, vision and ability to get things done.
"His desire to do something to help the local citizens led to a simple but powerful gesture: Yunus loaned $27 to destitute basket weavers in a village next to his university's campus," the magazine says.
"He could not believe the excitement the small amount of money caused. For people living on pennies a day, just a few dollars could transform their lives -- and in many cases it did. The gift was used to support and expand these very small businesses, and that helped many overcome their poverty.
"Much to Yunus' surprise, the basket weavers actually paid off the loans -- and on time too. He then moved from one village to the next, finding all sorts of entrepreneurial projects to fund," Fortune says.
While the bank could not eradicate poverty, it lifted many lives, the magazine adds.
"No less critical, Yunus' idea inspired countless numbers of young people to devote themselves to social causes all over the world."
The Fortune places the 12 individuals in the following order:
1) Steve Jobs of Apple, 2) Bill Gates of Microsoft, 3) Fred Smith of FedEx, 4) Jeff Bezos of Amazon, 5) Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, 6) Howard Schultz of Starbucks, 7) Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, 8) John Mackey of Whole Foods, 9) Herb Kelleher of SouthWest Airlines, 10) Narayana Murthy of Infosys, 11) Sam Walton of Wal-mart Stores, 12) Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank.
Ten of these entrepreneurs are American and one is an Indian.
The list was prepared considering economic and social impact, world changing vision of the entrepreneurs, ability of the entrepreneurs to inspire and motivate their employees, their record of innovation and their actual results, Yunus Centre said in a statement yesterday.
The companies that they have created have benefited hundreds and thousands of people and other businesses, while creating employment for millions of people, according to the statement.
Prof Yunus was chosen by Wharton School of Business for PBS documentary, as one of the 25 Most Influential Business Persons of the Past 25 Years.
In 2006, Time magazine listed him under 60 Years of Asian Heroes as one of the top 12 business leaders.
In 2008, in an open online poll, Yunus was voted the second topmost intellectual person in the world on the list of Top 100 Public Intellectuals by Prospect Magazine of the UK and Foreign Policy of the United States.
He was also voted second in Prospect Magazine's 2008 global poll of the world's Top 100 Intellectuals.
The news has enthralled leading economists and businessmen.
Former caretaker government adviser Hossain Zillur Rahman said his inclusion in the top 12 is a recognition of his philosophy and social responsibility.
"We are very proud of his achievement in two senses; first, he has been recognised as a Bangalee and secondly, he is a great role model for us," he told The Daily Star.
Besides, the honour would uphold the image of the country, maintained Zillur. "We have many problems and weaknesses. It is an example of how creative thinking can take an individual to a new height amid many problems."
Syed Nasim Manzur, a leading entrepreneur, said, "Of course, it is a great inspiration for us. It is a great thing that Fortune magazine has honoured a Bangladeshi and a social entrepreneur."
He said the Banker to the Poor has shown that business can have a conscience. "Business does not mean that it should ignore society's welfare to be successful. Dr Yunus is an example for this."
"It will inspire us to do business with a social conscience and become successful," said Manzur, managing director of Apex Adelchi Footwear Ltd, one of the top footwear brands of the country.
Annisul Huq, a former president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said Prof Yunus had really established some good institutions. "There is no doubt about his entrepreneurial credibility."