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Our Staff Writers and Editors offer insights on the latest news, events, interviews and other happenings from the development through enterprise and base of the pyramid universes
Thursday, April 30, 2009 — South Asia

Stabilizing Pakistan: Boosting its Private Sector

Source: Council on Foreign Relations

As it struggles to contain a growing insurgency, Pakistan has aroused concern that it is a failing or fracturing state. One aspect of the international community's response has been to place new focus on Pakistan's economic weaknesses. On completing his first hundred days in office, U.S. President Barack Obama acknowledged that the Pakistani government was "fragile" and lacked capacity to deliver basic services to its people, making it difficult for them to gain support of the populat...
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Thursday, April 30, 2009 — No Region Specified

Creating a Post-Crisis Economy: Why We Need Economic Dashboards

Source: Fast Company

A significant difference between those of us fortunate to be living above the poverty line and those unfortunate enough to be at the "bottom of the pyramid" is that the 'wealthy' can afford to consume. Being a "useful" member of a consumer society requires the consumption of products and services not directly necessary to survival. The very poor do not generally have that choice. I never really appreciated that distinction until I began to understand what was so powerful about t...
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Thursday, April 30, 2009 — South Asia

Max New York Life to Focus on Rural Areas

Source: Financial Chronicle

Max New York Life will now tap the rural and semi-urban markets across the country with its innovative and specially designed policy — Max Vijay, riding on the Peerless’ network. Peerless General Finance and Investment Company (PGFIL), on its part, will take in 30,000 fresh “smart advisors” in the present year to sell Max Vijay. Max New York Life will also help grooming these smart advisors. PGFIL, at present has 50,000 smart advisors across the country. ...
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Thursday, April 30, 2009 — South Asia

Builders, Politicians Cheer Affordable Homes in India

Source: Live Mint

Mumbai: A recent state government lottery for about 4,000 low-cost apartments in Mumbai drew more than 430,000 applications, underlining the need for affordable housing in a country where housing is also a top election issue. Political parties of all hues have seized on affordable homes as a vote getter in India’s ongoing general election, plugging in to the frustration of millions priced out of a real estate boom fuelled by a robust economy and a six-year bull market. Devel...
Wednesday, April 29, 2009 — South Asia

In the Nano's Headlights

Source: Business Standard

The Nano has more than lived up to its nickname — the people’s car. Judging by reports that the car has attracted bookings of close to a million, the market has now confirmed that the car has been a stupendous achievement for Tata Motors and its chairman, Ratan Tata, who conceived of just such a vehicle and marshalled his forces to deliver what most auto-makers had declared would be an impossible task. It is a tribute to India’s achievements in low-cost innovation that the g...
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Monday, April 27, 2009 — No Region Specified

Time for a New Kind of Capitalism?

Source: BBC News

The global financial crisis has led to serious questions, about the state of world capitalism. Anger is still running hot and strong against what's perceived as the selfishness and greed of those in big Western banks and corporations. But there are some entrepreneurs who believe now is the time for another kind of capitalism to grow and flourish - a more kind and compassionate form which has social good as its goal, the betterment of the lives of the world's poorest people, and ...
Monday, April 27, 2009 — No Region Specified

Making Better Investments at the Base of the Pyramid

Source: Harvard Business Review

Managers of business ventures that work with the world’s poor need more than financials and feel-good stories to measure success. They need to know exactly who’s benefiting and how. Rama was a seamstress by trade, not an optician. Before she connected with VisionSpring, a venture providing vision care to the poor, she sold hand-sewn clothes and blankets from her home and used her earnings to help support her husband (a farm worker who was often between jobs) and their two ch...
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009 — Latin America

Getting Microfinance Right

Source: Forbes

Forty percent of the world's population lives on less than $2 per day, according to the World Bank. Yet even in the midst of the current economic meltdown, there is reason for new optimism in the fight to reduce global poverty. The optimism starts with the evolution of microfinance, which has proved not only that the poor are credit-worthy, but that banking institutions serving the poor are investment-worthy. In addition, microfinance is tapping into a technological revolution that ...
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009 — No Region Specified

Arindam Bhattacharya: From Crisis to Leadership

Source: Business Standard

Only those who can convert today's crises - like massive urbanisation and global warming - into opportunity will be tomorrow's leaders. Reading my morning newspaper over the weekend, I was struck by one of the stories describing how crises have frequently been the trigger for some of the most outstanding developments in medical sciences — they made researchers look for out-of-the-box solutions for problems that, till then, appeared unsolvable. As a management consultant, I...
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009 — South Asia

NGO Nurtures Vision Entrepreneurs Through 'Business-in-a-Bag' Concept

Source: Business Standard

For Rama Devi, a seamstress in Mahabubnagar, the Rs 1,000 a month that she earns through sale of her handiwork was insufficient to support her husband and two children. Her husband, who worked in agriculture, endured long gaps of unemployment. Today as ‘vision entrepreneurs’, they together earn about Rs 5,000 a month. They recently made their first major investment – a motorcycle – which they use to reach more villages to host eyecare campaigns. Rama Devi is one ...
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009 — South Asia

Middle Class Accounts for Bulk of Urban Spending

Source: Live Mint

The bottom of the pyramid is the buzzword that has captured the hearts and minds of academics and marketeers alike. Though large in numbers, the consumer spend by this segment is quite low. What we find is that it is the middle bulge of expenditure by the middle class that accounts for the bulk of India’s urban consumer expenditure. About 61% of total urban income comes from households that can be classified as middle class—earning be-tween Rs75,000 and Rs5 lakh a year.
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009 — South Asia

Striking a Balance Between Profit and Philanthropy

Source: Live Mint

Bangalore: In December 2005, when Anant Kumar set up a hospital offering maternity and childcare services in Hyderabad targeting low-income customers by pricing services at about a quarter of what other hospitals charged, it was an instant success. Set up as a pilot 25-bed facility by a trust run by India’s largest condom maker, Hindustan Latex Ltd, the facility addressed a need that is felt all over India: affordable mother and child healthcare. But when Kumar decided to expand t...
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009 — South Asia

Design is Not Only for the Elite

Source: Business Standard

When Pradyumna Vyas took over the charge from Akhil Succena as director of National Institute of Design (NID), he had already set a roadmap for taking the design institute to a global platform. Armed with a masters in design from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, Vyas has an experience of 25 years in the field of design and has been the principal designer at NID before taking over as its head. In an exclusive interview with Vinay Umarji and Chitra Unnithan, Vyas shares his futu...
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Monday, April 20, 2009 — South Asia

Lessons from a frugal innovator

Source: Economist.com

ENTER the main cardiac operating-room at Bangalore’s Wockhardt hospital on a typical morning, and you will find a patient on the operating table with a screen hanging between his head and chest. On a recent visit the table was occupied by a middle-aged Indian man whose serene look suggested that he was ready for the operation to come. Asked how he was, he smiled and answered in Kannada that he felt fine. Only when you stand on a stool to look over the screen do you realise that his ches...
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Thursday, April 16, 2009 — South Asia

Third-World Stove Soot Is Target in Climate Fight

Source: The New York Times

KOHLUA, India — “It’s hard to believe that this is what’s melting the glaciers,” said Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, as he weaved through a warren of mud brick huts, each containing a mud cookstove pouring soot into the atmosphere. As women in ragged saris of a thousand hues bake bread and stew lentils in the early evening over fires fueled by twigs and dung, children cough from the dense smoke that fi...
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Thursday, April 16, 2009 — No Region Specified

D.Light Design a "Most Promising Social Entrepreneur"

Source: BusinessWeek

Goldman and Tozun first met in 2005 while MBA students at Stanford University's Institute of Design, where they worked together on projects during a semester-long class called Designing for Extreme Affordability. Goldman had spent four years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin, where he experienced the problems of living without electricity and relying on dangerous kerosene lamps. As a result of that experience, the two decided to focus on an affordable, scalable light solution.
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Thursday, April 16, 2009 — South Asia

India still most attractive destination for global retailers

Source: Food and Beverage News

Organised retail market in India is expected to reach $50 billion mark by 2011. Number of shopping malls is expected to increase at a CAGR of more than 18.9% from 2007 to 2015. Rural market is projected to dominate the retail industry landscape in India by 2012 with total market share of above 50%. Organised retailing of mobile handset and accessories is expected to reach close to Rs 5000 crore by 2010. Driven by the expanding retail market, third party logistic market is f...
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009 — South Asia

A shrinking fortune at the bottom of the pyramid?

Source: Business Standard

Small may be beautiful, but not always. Fast moving consumer goods companies (FMCG), which depend heavily on the bottom of the pyramid market are in trouble as far as their small pack sales are concerned. And this is despite the fact that no price increases took place in this segment, even though FMCG companies raised prices roughly 17 per cent for soaps and 24 per cent for detergents. Sample this: According to the latest Nielsen data for the 11-month period from March 2008 to Febr...
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Sunday, April 12, 2009 — No Region Specified

Products for the other 3 billion

Source: Fortune Magazine

Jim Patell is perhaps the only member of the faculty at Stanford Graduate School of Business to come to class sporting police-issue cargo pants with a black Benchmade knife clipped to the right front pocket. Patell differs from his B-school peers in another way too: Instead of teaching in a lecture hall filled with diligent students typing away on laptops, he operates out of Stanford's design school, where he teaches a class called Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordabili...
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Thursday, April 09, 2009 — South Asia

Rural India Promises Growth for Retail

Source: Times of India

There may be a slowdown in urban retail, but `Bharat' is still shining for retailers. The next phase of growth is expected to come from rural markets with rural India accounting for almost half of the domestic retail market, which is valued over $300 billion. Rural India is set to witness an economic boom, with per capita income having grown by 50% over the last 10 years, mainly on account of rising commodity prices andimproved productivity. Development of basic infrastructure,...
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Thursday, April 09, 2009 — No Region Specified

5 Tips for Trickle-Up Innovation from C.K. Prahalad

Source: BusinessWeek

Multinationals and start-ups alike can learn valuable innovation lessons by observing inventions and services that originate in emerging-markets — and then adapting them for the developed world. Some of the world’s leading thinkers and business school professors are now coming up with playbooks for corporations that are seeking such a “trickle-up” innovation strategy. For my recent BusinessWeek stories on the topic, I spoke with C. K. Prahalad, author of The Fortune at...
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Tuesday, April 07, 2009 — No Region Specified

Making a Profit and a Difference

Source: BusinessWeek

As the economy reels, enterprising individuals who apply business practices to solving societal problems are gaining support from public and private sectors By Stacy Perman Social entrepreneurs-enterprising individuals who apply business practices to solving societal problems, such as pollution, poor nutrition, and poverty-are now 30,000 strong and growing, according to ...
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Monday, April 06, 2009 — No Region Specified

Nokia Bets on Mobile Payment

Source: Technology Review

A $70 million investment by Nokia in a mobile-phone-payment system called Obopay suggests that, even in a plunging global economy, mobile financial services are guaranteed to grow in many of the world's poorest nations. In these parts of the world, many people lack access to traditional bank accounts and other financial services, but own mobile phones. Leveraging those phones as a way for people to access bank accounts, pay bills, borrow money, and pay loans is "a market that i...
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Monday, April 06, 2009 — Latin America

MicroPlace Offers 6 Percent Return on Microfinance Investment

Source: Press Release

MicroPlace (www.microplace.com), a website that enables everyday people to invest in the world's working poor, announced today the launch of the first microfinance investment opportunity that offers a 6 percent annual return for everyday investors. This investment offering comes at a time when Americans are examining the best ways to use their tax refunds in a tough economy. According to a recent poll by Taxsoftware.com, 58 percent of Americans planned to either save or invest ...
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Monday, April 06, 2009 — South Asia

Bottom of the Pyramid Spurs More Indian Ideas

Source: Business Standard

We have the Nano, we have mastered the art of low-cost surgery, we know how to engineer sports utility vehicles at a fraction of the cost of a multinational corporation, we send spacecraft to the moon and launch satellites at a third of the cost, we have the world’s cheapest mobile phone, we’re the world’s IT champs… So why haven’t we been able to devise cost-effective ways of delivering education and healthcare to the majority of our people? This is ...
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Monday, April 06, 2009 — South Asia

How customer focus is helping Bajaj Auto, ITC cut deeper

Source: DNA News

Mumbai: Visit any company website, or read any corporate brochure, the words "customer focus" invariably leap at you. What makes this a powerful trend is that it is not only restricted to the FMCG or the services sector. Now we have cement companies talking directly to end users on primetime television spots. We also have manufacturers of telecom cables and water pipes jostling for the customer's mind space alongside cola majors. The foregone conclusion: customer focus is the n...
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Friday, April 03, 2009 — No Region Specified

Cornell Announces BoP Essay Contest Winners

Source: Press Release

The Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise at the Johnson School at Cornell University is pleased to announce the winners of its 2nd annual Base of the Pyramid (BoP) Narrative Competition. Sponsored by USAID and International Finance Corporation (IFC), the competition was developed to highlight the challenges of doing business in underserved markets and identify innovative business experiments or solutions to those challenges. Open to all, this competition attracted over 1...
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Friday, April 03, 2009 — South Asia

Mart With a Rural Heart

Source: Hindu Business Line

Previously the people of Illol village travelled to the nearest town of Himmatnagar, Gujarat, to buy a sachet of shampoo. But now they are able to buy it from the shop in the village,” says Nadeem Jafri, who has set up Hearty Mart — a chain of supermarkets in rural areas. Rewriting the rules of top-down retailing models, Jafri has chosen to target the ‘bottom of the pyramid’, as advocated by well-known consultant C.K. Prahalad. With a presence in little-know...
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Friday, April 03, 2009 — No Region Specified

A New Effort to Boost Small Businesses in Emerging Markets

Source: BusinessWeek

Microfinance has improved the quality of life for millions of people at the bottom of the world’s economic pyramid, yet studies have not shown much of an impact on the economies of developing (or declining) nations. Microfinance, whether delivered via Grameen Bank-style rural distribution systems or direct loan operations like Kiva, just isn’t enough of a job creator. That’s why a number of economic development organizations are focusing on the next tier up—small but g...
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