Vikram Akula is using advanced technologysmart cardsto make venture capital available to more of the 800 million people in India who live on less than $2 a day. In the hinterland, where there are few landlines, let alone ATMs, the founder of SKS Microfinance is starting to dispense loans, typically $116, on smart cards, which its loan officers had been using to record repayments electronically. The plastic approach intrigued Visa International, which is now pairing SKS with cell phone-based card readers. The cash-free system is more efficient and safer too. As Visa’s emerging-markets chief, Debbie Arnold, put it, a cash-laden loan officer “might as well carry a big bull’s-eye on his back.” Akula, 37, has already made SKS one of the fastest-growing microlenders, having dispensed $52 million to 221,000 clients since 1998. SKS keeps its default rate below 2% by using software that provides real-time data. When he spots a red flag, he says, “we’re on it like a swat team.” Such transparency has attracted Silicon Valley types, with David Schappell of Unitus, a nonprofit venture-capital firm devoted to microfinance, likening SKS to the little coffee shop that became Starbucks.