The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid

9780131872769: The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid

The world's most exciting, fastest-growing new market is where you least expect it: at the bottom of the pyramid. Collectively, the world's billions of poor people have immense untapped buying power. They represent an enormous opportunity for companies who learn how to serve them. Not only can it be done, it is being done--very profitably. What's more, companies aren't just making money: by serving these markets, they're helping millions of the world's poorest people escape poverty. C.K. Prahalad's global bestseller The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, now available in paperback, shows why you can't afford to ignore "Bottom of the Pyramid" (BOP) markets. Now available in paperback, it offers a blueprint for driving the radical innovation you'll need to profit in emerging markets--and using those innovations to become more competitive everywhere. This new paperback edition includes eleven concise, fast-paced success stories from India, Peru, Mexico, Brazil, and Venezuela--ranging from salt to soap, banking to cellphones, healthcare to housing. These stories are backed by more detailed case studies and 10 hours of digital videos on Simply put, this book is about making a revolution: building profitable "bottom of the pyramid" markets, reducing poverty, and creating an inclusive capitalism that works for everyone. Preface xi About the Author xix Part I: The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid 1 Chapter 1: The Market at the Bottom of the Pyramid 3 Chapter 2: Products and Services for the BOP 23 Chapter 3: BOP: A Global Opportunity? 47 Chapter 4: The Ecosystem for Wealth Creation 63 Chapter 5: Reducing Corruption: Transaction Governance Capacity 77 Chapter 6: Development as Social Transformation 99 Part II: Business Success Stories from the Bottom of the Pyramid 113 Financing the Poor 115 Aravind Eye Care--The Most Precious Gift 131 Energy for Everyone 137 Agricultural Advances for the Poor--The EID Parry Story 149 Retail for the Poor 159 Information Technology to the Poor 169 The Jaipur Foot Story 187 Health Alerts for All 191 Transparent Government 201 The Annapurna Salt Story 213 Homes for the Poor--The CEMEX Story 221 From Hand to Mouth--The HHL Soap Story 235 Part III: On the Web at Video Success Stories Casas Bahia CEMEX Annapurna Salt Hindustan Lever Jaipur Foot Aravind Eye Care ICICI Bank ITC e-Choupal EID Parry Voxiva E+Co/Tecnosol Andhra Pradesh Full Success Case Stories in pdf format The Market at the Bottom of the Pyramid Known Problems and Known Solutions: What Is the Missing Link? Known Problems and Unique Solutions Known Problems and Systemwide Reform Scaling Innovations Creating Enabling Conditions for the Development of the Private Sector The EID Parry Story Biographies of the Researchers/Writers of the Success Case Stories from The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid 247 About the Video Success Stories 255 Index 257

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About the Author:

“...he may well be the most influential thinker on business strategy today.”



Internationally recognized as a specialist on corporate strategy and value-added of top management in multinational corporations, C.K. Prahalad has consulted with many of the world’s foremost companies. In addition to being the Harvey C. Fruehauf Professor of Business Administration at the University of Michigan, he serves on the board of Directors of NCR Corp., Hindustan Lever Ltd., and the World Resources Institute.


A prolific author as well, his book, Competing for the Future (co-authored with Gary Hamel), was a national bestseller and was the Best Selling Business Book of the Year in 1994. He also co-authored Multinational Mission: Balancing Local Demands and Global Vision (in 1987 with Yves Doz) and The Future of Competition: Co-Creating Unique Value with Customers (in 2004 with Venkat Ramaswamy).


He has been named among the top ten management thinkers of the world in every major survey for over ten years.


Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:



This book is a result of a long and lonely journey for me. It started during the Christmas vacation of 1995. During that period of celebration and good cheer, one issue kept nagging me: What are we doing about the poorest people around the world? Why is it that with all our technology, managerial know-how, and investment capacity, we are unable to make even a minor contribution to the problem of pervasive global poverty and disenfranchisement? Why can't we create inclusive capitalism? Needless to say, these are not new questions. However, as one who is familiar with both the developed and the developing world, the contrasts kept gnawing at me. It became clear that finding a solution to the problems of those at the bottom of the economic pyramid around the world should be an integral part of my next intellectual journey. It was also clear that we have to start with a new approach, a "clean sheet of paper." We have to learn from the successes and failures of the past; the promises made and not fulfilled. Doing more of the same, by refining the solutions of the past—developmental aid, subsidies, governmental support, localized nongovernmental organization (NGO)–based solutions, exclusive reliance on deregulation and privatization of public assets—is important and has a role to play, but has not redressed the problem of poverty.

Although NGOs worked tirelessly to promote local solutions and local entrepreneurship, the idea of large-scale entrepreneurship as a possible solution to poverty had not taken root. It appeared that many a politician, bureaucrat, and manager in large domestic and global firms agreed on one thing: The poor are wards of the state. This implicit agreement was bothersome. The large-scale private sector was only marginally involved in dealing with the problems of 80 percent of humanity. The natural question, therefore, was this: What if we mobilized the resources, scale, and scope of large firms to co-create solutions to the problems at the bottom of the pyramid (BOP), those 4 billion people who live on less than $2 a day? Why can't we mobilize the investment capacity of large firms with the knowledge and commitment of NGOs and the communities that need help? Why can't we co-create unique solutions? That was the beginning of my journey to understand and motivate large firms to imagine and act on their role in creating a more just and humane society by collaborating effectively with other institutions.

It was obvious that managers can sustain their enthusiasm and commitment to activities only if they are grounded in good business practices. The four to five billion people at the BOP can help redefine what "good business practice" is. This was not about philanthropy and notions of corporate social responsibility. These initiatives can take the process of engagement between the poor and the large firm only so far. Great contributions can result from these initiatives, but these activities are unlikely to be fully integrated with the core activities of the firm. For sustaining energy, resources, and innovation, the BOP must become a key element of the central mission for large private-sector firms. The poor must become active, informed, and involved consumers. Poverty reduction can result from co-creating a market around the needs of the poor.

We have to discard many of the "for and against" views of the world. For example, "are you for globalization or against it" is not a good question. Globalization, like all other major social movements, brings some good and some bad. Similarly, global versus local is not a useful debate. The tensions are real. Very early in my career, I learned that even within the multinational corporation (MNC) that is not a settled debate.

Similarly, the debate between small (e.g., microfinance) and large (e.g., multinational firms) is not a useful debate either. Large business can bring efficiency. NGOs can bring creativity to solve the problems that face us all. Certainly, I wanted to avoid the paternalism towards the poor that I saw in NGOs, government agencies, and MNCs.

This book is concerned about what works. This is not a debate about who is right. I am even less concerned about what may go wrong. Plenty can and has. I am focused on the potential for learning from the few experiments that are going right. These can show us the way forward. I do not want the poor of the world to become a constituency. I want poverty to be a problem that should be solved. This book is about all of the players—NGOs, large domestic firms, MNCs, government agencies, and most importantly, the poor themselves—coming together to solve very complex problems that we face as we enter the 21st century. The problem of poverty must force us to innovate, not claim "rights to impose our solutions."

The starting point for this transition had to be twofold. First, we should consider the implications of the language we use. "Poverty alleviation" and "the poor" are terms that are loaded with meaning and historical baggage. The focus on entrepreneurial activities as an antidote to the current malaise must focus on an active, underserved consumer community and a potential for global growth in trade and prosperity as the four to five billion poor become part of a system of inclusive capitalism. We should commence talking about underserved consumers and markets. The process must start with respect for Bottom of Pyramid consumers as individuals. The process of co-creation assumes that consumers are equally important joint problem-solvers. Consumers and consumer communities will demand and get choice. This process of creating an involved and activist consumer is already emerging. The BOP provides an opportunity to turbocharge this process of change in the traditional relationship between the firm and the consumer. Second, we must recognize that the conversion of the BOP into an active market is essentially a developmental activity. It is not about serving an existing market more efficiently. New and creative approaches are needed to convert poverty into an opportunity for all concerned. That is the challenge.

Once the basic approach was clear, the opportunities became obvious. The new viewpoint showed a different landscape and a focus on early and quiet attempts by some firms to explore this terrain. Unilever and its Indian subsidiary, Hindustan Lever Limited, was one such early experimenter. Around 1997, I found a kindred spirit in colleague Professor Stu Hart at the University of Michigan Business School (UMBS), who was approaching similar problems from a sustainable development perspective. We produced a working paper called "The Strategies for the Bottom of the Pyramid." Needless to say, not a single journal would accept the article for publication. It was too radical. Reviewers thought that it did not follow the work of developmental economists. Nobody noticed that we were offering an alternative to the traditional wisdom of how to alleviate global poverty. Thanks to the Web, various revisions of the working paper circulated freely. Surprisingly, a number of managers read it, accepted its premise, and started to initiate action based on it. Managers at Hewlett-Packard, DuPont, Monsanto, and other corporations started a venture fund and dedicated senior managers' time and energy to examine this opportunity. Meanwhile, the Digital Dividend conference organized by Dr. Allen Hammond and the World Resources Institute in Seattle in 1999 provided a forum to examine these ideas in depth. I have not looked back. Since 1997, I have used every possible platform—academic, managerial, and governmental—to push the idea of the BOP as a market and a source of innovations. During the last five years, slowly at first but now more rapidly, a large number of NGOs, academics, and managers have started to discuss the need for an alternate approach to poverty alleviation and the potential role of the private sector and entrepreneurship as one of the critical elements.

The publication of the two articles, "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid," in Strategy+Business (January 2002) with Stu Hart, and "Serve the Wor...

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