The bottom of the pyramid, bottom of the wealth pyramid, bottom of the income pyramid or the base of the pyramid is the largest, but poorest socio-economic group. In global terms, this is the 2.7 billion people who live on less than $2.50 a day.[1][2]

The wealth pyramid. As we move higher and higher up in wealth we find fewer and fewer people having that wealth and vice versa.

Management scholar CK Prahalad popularised the idea of this demographic as a profitable consumer base in his 2004 book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, written alongside Stuart Hart.[3]

History edit

U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt used the term in his April 7, 1932 radio address, The Forgotten Man, in which he said,

These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power . . . that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

The more current usage refers to the billions of people living on less than $2.50 per day, the definition proposed in 1998 by C.K. Prahalad and Stuart L. Hart. It was subsequently expanded upon by both in their books: The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid by Prahalad in 2004[4] and Capitalism at the Crossroads by Hart in 2005.[5]

Prahalad proposes that businesses, governments, and donor agencies stop thinking of the poor as victims and instead start seeing them as resilient and creative entrepreneurs as well as value-demanding consumers.[6] He proposes that there are tremendous benefits to multi-national companies who choose to serve these markets in ways responsive to their needs. After all the poor of today are the middle class of tomorrow. There are also poverty reducing benefits if multi-nationals work with civil society organizations and local governments to create new local business models.

However, there is some debate over Prahalad's proposition. Aneel Karnani, also of the Ross School at the University of Michigan, argued in a 2007 paper that there is no fortune at the bottom of the pyramid and that for most multinational companies the market is really very small.[7] Karnani also suggests that the only way to alleviate poverty is to focus on the poor as producers, rather than as a market of consumers. Prahalad later provided a multi-page response to Karnani's article. Additional critiques of Prahalad's proposition have been gathered in "Advancing the 'Base of the Pyramid' Debate".

Meanwhile, Hart and his colleague Erik Simanis at Cornell University's Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise advance another approach, one that focuses on the poor as business partners and innovators, rather than just as potential producers or consumers. Hart and Simanis have led the development of the Base of the Pyramid Protocol, an entrepreneurial process that guides companies in developing business partnerships with income-poor communities in order to "co-create businesses and markets that mutually benefit the companies and the communities". This process has been adopted by the SC Johnson Company[8] and the Solae Company (a subsidiary of DuPont).[9]

Furthermore, Ted London at the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan focuses on the poverty alleviation implications of Base of the Pyramid ventures. He has created a BoP teaching module designed for integration into a wide variety of courses common at business schools that explain the current BoP thinking. He has identified the BoP Perspective as a unique market-based approach to poverty alleviation. London has also developed the BoP Impact Assessment Framework, a tool that provides a holistic and robust guide for BoP ventures to assess and enhance their poverty alleviation impacts. This framework, along with other tools and approaches, is outlined in London's Base of the Pyramid Promise and has been implemented by companies, non-profits, and development agencies in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.[10]

Another recent focus of interest lies on the impact of successful BoP-approaches on sustainable development. Some of the most significant obstacles encountered when integrating sustainable development at the BoP are the limits to growth that restrict the extended development of the poor, especially when applying a resource-intensive Western way of living. Nevertheless, from a normative ethical perspective poverty alleviation is an integral part of sustainable development according to the notion of intragenerational justice (i.e. within the living generation) in the Brundtland Commission's definition. Ongoing research addresses these aspects and widens the BoP approach also by integrating it into corporate social responsibility thinking.[citation needed]

What is the actual shape of the wealth pyramid? edit

Approximate visualisation of the wealth pyramid when 1% population controls 50% of the wealth[11]

The pyramid is a graphical depiction of inverse relationship between two variables as one increases the other decreases. We find that the percent of world wealth and the percent of world population controlling it are related with each other in an inverse relation. If we plot the world wealth in percent terms along the vertical axis of a graph and the corresponding percent population having control on it on the horizontal axis of a graph and add the mirror image of this graph on the left side of the vertical axis we get a wealth pyramid and can see that as we move to higher and higher wealth brackets we find that fewer and fewer people have access to it, thus the figure has a wide bottom and a lean top similar to the pyramids of Egypt.

It has been reported that the gap between the ToP and BoP is widening over time in such a way that only 1% of the world population controls 50% of the wealth today, and the other 99% is having access to the remaining 50% only.[12][13] On the basis of this report the wealth pyramid would look like the one shown in the illustration.

How low is the bottom? edit

The standards and benchmarks developed – for example less than $2.5 a day – always tell us about the upper limit of what we call the BoP, and not actually about its base or bottom. The fact is that the bottom or the base is much much lower. Even going by the official definition, for example in India the Rangarajan Committee after re-examining the issue of poverty defined the poverty line in 2011-12 at INR 47.00 ($0.69) per capita per day for urban areas and INR 32.00 ($0.47) per capita per day in rural areas (June 2016 conversion rate),[14] obviously much less than the $2.5 per day benchmark. This again is the upper layer of the poor as defined by the Rangarajan Committee. Where is the actual bottom? and how low? This can perhaps only be visualised by observing the slums right in the hearts of the cities in the developing countries.

Good business sense and the BoP markets edit

Kash Rangan, John Quelch, and other faculty members at the Global Poverty Project at Harvard Business School "believe that in pursuing its own self-interest in opening and expanding the BoP market, business can make a profit while serving the poorest of consumers and contributing to development."[15] According to Rangan, "For business, the bulk of emerging markets worldwide is at the bottom of the pyramid so it makes good business sense – not a sense of do-gooding – to go after it."[15] But in the view of Friedman "the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits only, thus, it needs to be examined whether business in BoP markets is capable of achieving the dual objective of making a profit while serving the poorest of consumers and contributing to development?"[16]

Erik Simanis has reported that the model has a fatal flaw. According to Simanis, "Despite achieving healthy penetration rates of 5% to 10% in four test markets, for instance, Procter & Gamble couldn’t generate a competitive return on its Pur water-purification powder after launching the product on a large scale in 2001...DuPont ran into similar problems with a venture piloted from 2006 to 2008 in Andhra Pradesh, India, by its subsidiary Solae, a global manufacturer of soy protein ... Because the high costs of doing business among the very poor demand a high contribution per transaction, companies must embrace the reality that high margins and price points aren't just a top-of-the-pyramid phenomenon; they’re also a necessity for ensuring sustainable businesses at the bottom of the pyramid."[17] Marc Gunther states that, "The bottom-of-the-pyramid (BOP) market leader, arguably, is Unilever ... Its signature BOP product is Pureit, a countertop water-purification system sold in India, Africa and Latin America. It's saving lives, but it's not making money for shareholders."[18] Several consulting companies have modeled the profitability of accessing the bottom of pyramid by utilizing economies of scale.[19]

Examples of BoP business edit

Microcredit edit

One example of "bottom of the pyramid" is the growing microcredit market in South Asia, particularly in Bangladesh. With technology being steadily cheaper and more ubiquitous, it is becoming economically efficient to "lend tiny amounts of money to people with even tinier assets". An Indian banking report argues that the microfinance network (called "Sa-Dhan" in India) "helps the poor" and "allows banks to 'increase their business'".[20] However, formal lenders must avoid the phenomenon of informal intermediation: Some entrepreneurial borrowers become informal intermediaries between microfinance initiatives and poorer micro-entrepreneurs. Those who more easily qualify for microfinance split loans into smaller credit to even poorer borrowers. Informal intermediation ranges from casual intermediaries at the good or benign end of the spectrum to 'loan sharks' at the professional and sometimes criminal end of the spectrum.[21]

Market-specific products edit

One of many examples of products that are designed with needs of the very poor in mind is that of a shampoo that works best with cold water and is sold in small packets to reduce barriers of upfront costs for the poor. Such a product is marketed by Hindustan Unilever.

Innovation edit

There is a traditional view that BOP consumers do not want to adopt innovation easily. However, C. K. Prahalad (2005) claimed against this traditional view, positing that the BOP market is very eager to adopt innovations. For instance, BOP consumers are using PC kiosks, Mobile phone, Mobile banking etc. Relative advantage and Complexity attributes of an innovation suggested by Everett Rogers (2004) significantly influence the adoption of an innovation in the Bottom of pyramid market (Rahman, Hasan, and Floyd, 2013). Therefore, innovation developed for this market should focus on these two attributes (Relative advantage and Complexity).

Venture capital edit

Whereas Prahalad originally focused on corporations for developing BoP products and entering BoP markets, it is believed by many that Small to Medium Enterprises (SME) might even play a bigger role. For Limited Partners (LPs), this offers an opportunity to enter new venture capital markets. Although several social venture funds are already active, true Venture Capital (VC) funds are now emerging.

Brand edit

There is a traditional view that BOP consumers are not brand conscious (Prahalad, 2005). However, C. K. Prahalad (2005) claimed against this traditional view, positing that the BOP market is brand conscious. For instance, brand influences the new product adoption in the bottom of pyramid market (Rahman, Hasan, and Floyd, 2013). Rahman et al. (2013) mentioned that brand may positively influence the relative advantage of an innovation and it leads to adoption of innovation in the BOP. In point of traditional view BOP market, people were not aware about brand concept. Sopan Kumbhar (2013)

Business and community partnerships edit

As Fortune reported on November 15, 2006, since 2005 the SC Johnson Company has been partnering with youth groups in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. Together SC Johnson and the groups have created a community-based waste management and cleaning company, providing home-cleaning, insect treatment, and waste disposal services for residents of the slum. SC Johnson's project was the first implementation of the "Base of the Pyramid Protocol".

Conferences edit

There have been a number of academic and professional conferences focused on the BoP. A sample of these conferences are listed below:

Footnotes edit

  1. ^ "Definition of bottom of the pyramid (BOP)". Nikkei. Archived from the original on May 5, 2017. Retrieved May 3, 2017. Technically, a member of the BOP is part of the largest but poorest groups of the world's population, who live with less than $2.50 a day and are excluded from the modernity of our globalised civilised societies, including consumption and choice as well as access to organised financial services.
  2. ^ Malik, Khalid (2014), "Chapter 1: Vulnerability and human development" (PDF), Human Development Report: Sustaining Human Progress, New York: United Nations Development Programme, p. 19, ISBN 978-92-1-126368-8, retrieved May 3, 2017, Globally, 1.2 billion people (22 percent) live on less than $1.25 a day. Increasing the income poverty line to $2.50 a day raises the global income poverty rate to about 50 percent, or 2.7 billion people.
  3. ^ Bajaj, Vikas (April 21, 2010). "C. K. Prahalad, Proponent of Poor as Consumers, Dies at 68". New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2017. C. K. Prahalad, a management professor and author who popularized the idea that companies could make money while helping to alleviate poverty, died Friday in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego.
  4. ^ "Wharton School Publishing | InformIT". April 17, 2016. Archived from the original on February 8, 2009. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  5. ^ "Wharton School Publishing | InformIT". April 17, 2016. Archived from the original on September 16, 2009. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  6. ^ *Giesler, Markus; Veresiu, Ela (2014). "Creating the Responsible Consumer: Moralistic Governance Regimes and Consumer Subjectivity". Journal of Consumer Research. 41 (October): 849–867. doi:10.1086/677842.
  7. ^ Karnani, Aneel G. (July 14, 2006). "Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: A Mirage by Aneel G. Karnani". SSRN 914518. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  8. ^ Scott Johnson (August 22, 2007). "SC Johnson builds business at the base of the pyramid". Global Business and Organizational Excellence. 26 (6): 6–17. doi:10.1002/JOE.20170. ISSN 1932-2054. Wikidata Q104887783.
  9. ^ "Base of the Pyramid Protocol - Projects - Solae in India". Archived from the original on February 6, 2012. Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  10. ^ #London, T. 2016."The Base of the Pyramid Promise". William Davidson Institute. Archived from the original on July 25, 2019. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  11. ^ "Global Wealth Report 2015". Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  12. ^ Raghuram G. Rajan (2012). "Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy". Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  13. ^ Jill Treanor. "Half of world's wealth now in hands of 1% of population – report". The Guardian. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  14. ^ Puri, V. K., & Misra, S. K. (2015). Indian Economy. New Delhi: Himalya Publishing House.
  15. ^ a b "The Business of Global Poverty – HBS Working Knowledge – Harvard Business School". April 4, 2007. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  16. ^ "Friedman, M. (1970, September 13). The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Its Profits. New York Times Magazine". Archived from the original on March 12, 2008. Retrieved June 23, 2016.
  17. ^ Erik Simanis (January 1, 1922). "Reality Check at the Bottom of the Pyramid". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  18. ^ Marc Gunther. "The base of the pyramid: will selling to the poor pay off?". The Guardian. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  19. ^ "Accessing the Bottom of Pyramid in India". Boston Analytics. June 22, 2016.
  20. ^ "Helping themselves". The Economist. August 11, 2005. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  21. ^ Arp, Frithjof; Ardisa, Alvin; Ardisa, Alviani (2017). "Microfinance for poverty alleviation: Do transnational initiatives overlook fundamental questions of competition and intermediation?". Transnational Corporations. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. 24 (3): 103–117. doi:10.18356/10695889-en. S2CID 73558727. UNCTAD/DIAE/IA/2017D4A8.
  22. ^ "Sankalp Forum". Sankalp Forum. February 18, 2016. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  23. ^ "Eradicating Poverty Through Profit | - Development Through Enterprise". Archived from the original on January 22, 2009. Retrieved February 5, 2009.
  24. ^ "Brazil BOP Conference Proceedings | - Development Through Enterprise". Archived from the original on February 10, 2009. Retrieved February 5, 2009.
  25. ^ "Mexico BOP Conference Proceedings | - Development Through Enterprise". Archived from the original on February 10, 2009. Retrieved February 5, 2009.
  26. ^ "Research at the Base of the Pyramid "Developing a New Perspective" - the William Davidson Institute". Archived from the original on February 11, 2009. Retrieved February 5, 2009.
  27. ^ "Base of the Pyramid Conference 2007". February 22, 2007. Archived from the original on February 22, 2007. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  28. ^ "HSE - BOP | Sustainable Innovations at the Base of the Pyramid". Archived from the original on February 9, 2009. Retrieved February 5, 2009.
  29. ^ ""The Bottom of the Pyramid in Practice" Workshop | UCI IMTFI Institute for Money, Technology, and Financial Inclusion". Archived from the original on August 2, 2012. Retrieved May 23, 2009.
  30. ^ "Online Store | 2016 Vrouwen Jeans Verkopen". Archived from the original on April 9, 2009. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  31. ^ "BoP Summit 2013: Home Page". Retrieved July 24, 2016.

Sources edit

  1. Dalglish C. and M. Tonelli 2016. Entrepreneurship at the Bottom of the Pyramid. New York, U.S.A.: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-138-84655-5
  2. Microcredit in India: Helping Themselves in The Economist, August 11, 2005.
  3. Fortune, Marc Gunther (November 15, 2006). "SC Johnson funds startups in Africa: Chasing the base of the pyramid". Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  4. Hart, S. L. & London, T. 2005. Developing native capability: What multinational corporations can learn from the base of the pyramid. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 3(2): 28-33.
  5. Profits – a penny at a time by David Ignatius in The Washington Post, July 5, 2005.
  6. Karnani, Aneel G., Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: A Mirage . Ross School of Business Paper No. 1035
  7. Landrum, Nancy E (2007). "Advancing the "Base of the Pyramid" Debate". Strategic Management Review. 1 (1). Archived from the original on October 9, 2007. Retrieved June 24, 2007.
  8. London, T. 2008. The base-of-the-pyramid perspective: A new approach to poverty alleviation. In G. T. Solomon (Ed.), Academy of Management Best Paper Proceedings.
  9. Prahalad, C K (2004) Fortune at the bottom of the pyramid: Eradicating poverty through profits. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  10. Rahman, Mizan; Hasan, Md Rajibul; Floyd, David (May 20, 2013). "Brand Orientation as a Strategy That Influences the Adoption of Innovation in the Bottom of the Pyramid Market" (PDF). Strategic Change. 22 (3–4): 225–239. doi:10.1002/jsc.1935.
  11. e-Choupal Rao, Sachin (August 1, 2003). "Web-based information and procurement tools for Indian farmers". Retrieved January 12, 2017.[permanent dead link]
  12. Rogers, E. M. ( 2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York: Free Press.

Further reading edit

  1. Achieving Results: A Priority for Latin America and the Caribbean BoP Agenda. Inter-American Development Bank. February 2010. Archived from the original on March 15, 2010. Retrieved March 8, 2010.
  2. The Next Billions: Unleashing Business Potential in Untapped Markets (PDF). World Economic Forum. January 2009. p. 44. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 19, 2013. Retrieved May 3, 2009.
  3. Allen Hammond; William J Kramer; Julia Tran; Rob Katz; Courtland Walker (March 2007). The Next 4 Billion: Market Size and Business Strategy at the Base of the Pyramid. World Resources Institute. p. 164. ISBN 978-1-56973-625-8.
  4. Hart, S.L "Capitalism at the Crossroads" (Wharton School Publishing, 2005)
  5. "The Base of the Pyramid Protocol". Archived from the original on May 3, 2008. Retrieved February 22, 2008.
  6. Kandachar, P. and Halme, M. (Eds.) "Sustainability challenges and solutions at the base of the pyramid – Business, technology and the poor". Greenleaf Publishing Ltd, Sheffield 2008
  7. Landrum, N. (2012). Unintended consequences of business with 4 billion: Lessons learned from first generation BOP strategies. In Wankel, C. & Malleck, S. (Eds.), Ethical Models and Applications of Globalization: Cultural, Socio-Political and Economic Perspectives. Hershey PA: IGI Global, pp. 42-54.
  8. London, T; Hart, S L (2004). "Reinventing strategies for emerging markets: Beyond the transnational model". Journal of International Business Studies. 35 (5): 350–370. doi:10.1057/palgrave.jibs.8400099. S2CID 167837827. Archived from the original on July 6, 2008. Retrieved July 3, 2008.
  9. London. T. 2007. A Base-of-the-Pyramid Perspective on Poverty Alleviation. Washington, DC: United Nations Development Program. Growing Inclusive Markets Working Paper Series.
  10. Prahalad, C.K. and Hart, S.L The Fortune at the Bottom of the PyramidStrategy+Business (2002).
  11. Prahalad, C.K "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid" (Wharton School Publishing, 2004)
  12. Prahalad, Coimbatore Krishna (2010). The fortune at the bottom of the pyramid: eradicating poverty through profits. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School. p. 407. ISBN 978-0-13-700927-5.
  13. Prahalad, Deepa. The New Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid. Strategy+Business (2019).
  14. Sachin Shukla; Sreyamsa Bairiganjan (2011). The Base of Pyramid distribution challenge: Evaluating alternate distribution models of energy products for rural Base of Pyramid in India. Chennai, India: Centre for Development Finance, IFMR. p. 53. ISBN 978-81-920986-0-9. Archived from the original on August 18, 2011. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  15. Sreyamsa Bairiganjan; Ray Cheung; Ella Delio; David Fuente; Saurabh Lall; Santosh Singh (2010). Power to the People: Investing in Clean Energy for the Base of the Pyramid in India. Chennai, India: Centre for Development Finance, IFMR. p. 74. ISBN 978-1-56973-754-5.

External links edit