What is the methodology for Base of the Pyramid Innovation?

I found this interesting blog – where the aim is to come up with a ‘practice’ and method for designing and developing products for the BoP. I will be watching this blog from now on.

www.bop-innovation.com

I am very excited to embark on this new combined research and consultancy project about People Centred Innovation with Base of the Pyramid. For the next six months I will be exploring how we can create new products and business models to improve the life of the half of the world’s population who is getting by on less than 4 usd a day (in comparative purchasing power as if they were living in the US), and how we can put people first and include their needs and aspirations, and their knowledge and resources in this. The UN calls it Growing Inclusive Markets.

People Centred Innovation with Base of the Pyramid

www.cfbi.dk

I am very excited to embark on this new combined research and consultancy project about People Centred Innovation with Base of the Pyramid. For the next six months I will be exploring how we can create new products and business models to improve the life of the half of the world’s population who is getting by on less than 4 usd a day (in comparative purchasing power as if they were living in the US), and how we can put people first and include their needs and aspirations, and their knowledge and resources in this. The UN calls it Growing Inclusive Markets.

The research project is funded by Network for Research Based Userdriven Innovation – NfBI and I have the pleasure of being part of the team of very skilled people at the SPIRE – Research Center for Participatory Innovation – at University of Southern Denmark. My case in this project is based on my collaboration with Danish company Danisco, who provides bio-based solutions for food ingredients and other stuff. I am working as a consultant in the project team together with their innovation manager Flemming Vang Sparsø, and we are exploring how Danisco can develop products and business models that will improve the nutrition and income of people in the rural areas of India. (And this is by the way what brings me to India, but more about this a bit later).

Microfinance Misses its Mark

This article goes some way in laying out more categories in the BOP debate.

Yet the BOP proposition glosses over the real issue: Why do poor people accept that they cannot expect running water? Even if they do accept this bleak view, why should we? Instead, we should emphasize the failure of government and attempt to correct it. Giving a voice to the poor is a central aspect of the development process.

The business community, bureaucrats, politicians, and the media are very busy congratulating themselves on the booming private sector in India. Sure, more Indians have cell phones. But what many remember about India is not all the people using cell phones. It’s all the people defecating in public because they do not have toilets. Even in Mumbai, the business capital of India, about 50 percent of the people defecate outside. The current celebration of private sector successes should be met, and perhaps chastened, with anger at the failure of the state to provide basic services.

Overall, governments, businesses, and civil society would be well advised to reallocate their resources and energies away from microfinance and into supporting larger enterprises in labor-intensive industries. This is what is alleviating poverty in China, Korea, Taiwan, and other developing countries. At the same time, they should also provide basic services that improve the employability and productivity of the poor. Otherwise, they will miss the mark of lifting people out of poverty.

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Base of the Samosa

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!

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