Rob Katz

BoP Protocol Releases 2nd Edition

BoP Protocol Workshop in KenyaWhat does a next-generation BoP strategy look like?? How do large companies work effectively (and profitably) with the BoP?? What have we learned in the years since Stuart Hart and C.K. Prahalad published their s+b article, Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid?

If you’re looking for answers to these questions, then you may be in luck; they – and many more – are addressed in the newly-released Base of the Pyramid Protocol: Second Edition.? The Protocol, first developed in 2003 and 2004, has been revised extensively under the leadership of Hart and co-author Erik Simanis.? The new edition’s subtitle?? “Toward Next Generation BoP Strategy.”? That alone should tell you enough about its value to those of us in the BoP space.Some may ask, what is the BoP Protocol, anyway, and was there a first edition?? Good questions.? The Protocol is a new business innovation process, developed specifically for the BoP by a group of academics and practitioners over the past 5-plus years.? The first BoP Protocol workshop was held in 2004, and the first edition document was released in 2005 – download it at the BoP Protocol web site.

Over the next 3 years, the Protocol was field tested with SC Johnson (in Kenya) and DuPont/Solae in India.? The Second Edition is, in part, a reflection of what the authors learned through these field tests and in their own development of a sustainable innovation process for the BoP.

Personally, I think the Protocol is most valuable for its integrated discussion of real-world examples.? The authors detail what has worked – and failed – in the Protocol’s two applications (Kenya and India).? Unlike other case-based BoP studies, however, these anecdotes are embedded into a broad strategic framework – something you don’t find elsewhere in the BoP literature.?

For example, in the “Building Deep Dialogue” section, the authors exhort corporate users on the value of embedding their teams in BoP communities.? This isn’t a new concept – companies from Cemex to Nokia to P&G have already adopted it – but the Protocol goes beyond simple advice and describes how its team members actually lived and worked in the slums of Kibera:

SC Johnson team members cooked and sold “mandazi” (a Kenyan fried bread) by the roadside, collected trash and sorted recyclables with a youth group, and sold hand-stiched clothing from a small kiosk.

This isn’t to say that every MNC seeking to work in Kenya should copy SC Johnson’s approach, but it gives another level of detail that can be incredibly helpful when executing a BoP strategy.? After all, it’s not enough to tell your team to go and live in a BoP community; managers need to suggest the types of partners, activities and reporting metrics that make the exercise worthwhile.? You’ll find this in the Protocol – a major step forward in BoP practice.

The Protocol is useful beyond its integration of strategy and practice, however.? It is laid out as a series of steps that MNCs can take to develop a long-term, sustainable BoP strategy.? I emphasize sustainability, since the authors take pains to address environmental issues in their work, something that has been slow to develop within the BoP space.

Of course, a 9-step integrated process is not easily digested, and the Protocol can be overly academic at times (Hart and Simanis are both academics, so this is to be expected).? That said, it is well worth a reader’s time to carefully examine the newly-released Second Edition.

Congratulations to the team – which, along with Hart and Simanis includes Justin DeKoszmovszky, NextBillion ally Patrick Donohue, Duncan Duke, Gordon Enk, Michael Gordon and Tatiana Thieme.

Editor’s note: Be sure to check out the Wall Street Journal’s March 5 coverage of the BoP Protocol, In India, How Do Rooftop Gardens Grow?? The reporter mis-represents some facts (calling the Protocol a development program, for example) but mainstream coverage is never a bad thing.? Kudos…