Sailaja N. Joshi

Hello/Good-bye BoP.

In Heroes on April 19, 2010 at 8:43 am

I would be amiss today if I did not write about the passing of Mr. C. K. Prahalad, author of The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid and one of my heroes.

I first came across The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid in late 2005 while at the European School of Business and I remember the book being a beacon of hope for me. It was my senior year and I had this feeling that, well, I could not just market something to anyone, but that I needed to really create products that were meant for people.

Enter in Mr. Prahalad (and Anthropology).

The central thesis to Mr. Prahalad’s work is that change, innovation and wealth can come from the Bottom of the Pyramid. By developing products for those who live on less than $2 a day, we can provide them with the necessary means to step out of poverty and become valued citizens of the world. Companies can benefit from this too because with 4 billion people living on just $2 a day, there is certainly some money to be made in these numbers.

What was inspiring to me about Mr. Prahalad’s work is that it incorporated those in need with the needs of business (aka profit). Up until Mr. Prahalad’s book, my experience as a Business school student had centered around gaining profit from the ‘real consumers.’ And in our courses, not one of my teachers mentioned that well, they was profit in helping those who needed our help the most.

What Mr. Prahalad did for my Business generation is help us understand that, helping people can be profitable too. His book helped to usher in an era of micro-lending, smart product development and green values in my generation. For me, his book opened up my eyes and helped me to understand that our world is made up of consumer who are more than just hipsters, geeks or prepsters.  This world is made up of the $2 a day consumer, and they like us, have a genuine need for stuff.

So, thank you Mr. Prahalad for bringing our attention to the wealth at the Bottom of the Pyramid. Thank you very much.  Your presence will be missed, but your message will live on in the hearts and mind of this generation.

  1. Ya, this book was life changing for sure. I read it on a trip to India and it made me look at everything through a different lens. I might still owe my wife a copy because the one she lent me got passed around so much it didn’t make it back to Mass!

  2. awesome. now to come up with that 2$ life changing product….

    • Shoes. Shoes are a simple luxury that most people in the third world do not own. By owning shoes, you protect your feet from cuts which let in diseases and lead to early death. I have an article on this somewhere that I’ll dig up for you. The principle that the Late Mr. Prahalad is trying to drill into our generation is that business can help those in need and not compromise their shareholder value.

  3. one can already get shoes cheaper than 2$…im sure a pair of chapals in india is like 25 rupees for the cheapest kind. its not GROUND breaking per se. and one can say “toothbrush” or “sock” or any day to day item that improves lifestyle. the trick is coming up with something NEW that doesnt already have cheap alternatives. not so easy of a task. shareholders or not.

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