I have finally begun reading Prahalad – and have been deeply and persistently irritated. First it was the blase account of the post colonial history of India. Then it is the valorising of Hindustan Lever and putting all into the framework of a ‘social’ economic construct – and of course the pyramid. There is no room for ‘evil’ which is what the track record of the MNC (which are going to deliver us from poverty if CKP has his way) has been in developing countries – a la opium and the British in China. But maybe this perspective – of looking at the MNC with suspicion – is the marginal ( and reactionary) as CKP says. I will allow that.
But what of the aesthetic – they, the MNCs, have a flat, colourless aesthetic- very socialist Russia.
Either way I went looking for the critique of the BOP and CKP and found a little – but also found among the acolytes an interesting post. Read on.
Behind us, on a brown flip chart taped to the wall, is drawn a large three sided figure, a triangle really, with the words “Base of the Pyramid” written on top, or BoP for short. That’s us. A brave hand ventures forth, “Do you mean like a samosa?” For those not in the know, a samosa is a triangle shaped pastry of Indian or Persian origin, stuffed with a delightful filling of meat or vegetables. You can find samosas being fried and sold fresh on the mud tracks, pathways, and streets of Kibera; one of the tasty treats will set you back only about 5 shillings (7 cents). “Yes!” we say with a smile, thankful for a local translation, “The pyramid is like a samosa! The rich people are up top, that’s where most companies traditionally focus, but down below here in the base are some 4 billion people, a whole world that’s been…” There’s another hand up in the air now. “Tafadhali”, we prompt, “please.” “Why should people at the top of the samosa get everything,” one man asks, “when all the meat is at the bottom?” There are a few murmurs of agreement from the crowd, so the man continues, “And why a samosa? A chapati would be better, that way everyone is the same!” This time there are cheers. A chapati is a flat round fried bread, kind of like an Indian version of a Mexican tortilla, and like samosas, chapatis can be found fresh and hot all throughout Kibera. I love chapati, but I’m too much of a free market fan to buy into the idea of it as a symbol of world commerce, nor do I think it’s an accurate representation of how the world really is. Another man speaks up, “Can’t we just turn the samosa upside down?” “Upside down?” “Yes,” he explains, “turn it upside down, then all the rich people are on the bottom and we can force them up to the top!