Kishor Nagula

Design for the Other 90%: Don’t Miss While It’s In DC

Editor’s Note: NextBillion is glad to introduce new Editor Kishor Nagula, who will collaborate with the Managing Editors and with fellow-Editor Nathan Wyeth on administering different aspects of the site. Kishor hails from Washington DC, where he’s a graduate student at the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University.

Welcome, Kishor!

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If you’re in Washington, there’s a couple of events you should surely not miss: the event later this week at SAIS examining SME finance in Africa, and the Design for the Other 90% Exhibition that is currently at the National Geographic Museum. I went this weekend, and it’s fantastic.

This past week, I visited the Design for the other 90% exhibit at National Geographic in Washington D.C. The exhibit’s intent is to showcase innovations within the BOP space that cover one of six categories: health, shelter, water, education, energy and transport. Moving beyond the literal purpose, the exhibit clearly elucidated this idea of commercialization of products/services at the BoP. Several innovations were illustrated at the exhibit, but I’ve profiled the ones that seem to have shown the most commercialized success.


Kickstart’s mission is to develop technologies to local entrepreneurs to promote sustainable economic growth and small enterprise development, all with the intent to alleviate poverty. The inventions – the Super MonkeyMaker, MoneyMaker Hip Pump (and no, these are not the song titles to the newest Jay-Z album but are items featured at the exhibit), Stablized Soil Block Press and the Cooking Oil Press – all offer a highly efficient alternative to production than previously observed before.

Even more interesting is how each product is designed with the end user and their context in mind; its manufacturing standards and criteria include that each product be energy efficient, affordable, portable, culturally acceptable and strong/durable. Armed with a robust marketing campaign, Kickstart has successfully managed to pull 478,000 out of poverty, with $95.5 million in wages and profits generated from the 149,000 tools sold. (Update: Make sure you don’t miss the recent special on PBS Newshour on Kickstart).

Vestergaard Frandsen:

The company’s motto, “profit for a purpose” drives its production line, with five core products, the Care Pack, PermaNet, LifeStraw, ZeroFly and ZeroVector, that focus on providing critical care in regions where it’s needed. Thus far, VF has sold 165 million bed nets and generates a profit. The LifeStraw was featured at the exhibit, resembling those you’d see at Starbucks. But unlike the Starbucks straw, the LifeStraw works as a portable water purifier that effectively removes all bacteria and viruses responsible for causing diarrheal diseases. With many sold thus far, the LifeStraw has specifically been used in New Orleans post Katrina and by the Carter foundation in their pursuit of eradicating the Guinea worm.

International Development Enterprises:

Much like Kickstart, IDE aims to provide income generating opportunities for those living at the BoP. One of their highly productive products, the Drip Irrigation System, offers the same benefits as the more complicated alternatives in the developed world (water reduction by 30-70%, crop yield increasing by over 50%) through tools endemic to the developing environment. IDE’s system comprises up of rubber tubing with tiny holes delivering water directly to the plants, while modified to fit the topography and economics of regions in the developing world. The system has been a huge success, with over 600,000 of these systems sold.

Jaipur Foot:

In C.K Pralahad’s The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid , he not only outlines the business case for creating profitable ventures to the BoP, but also profiles businesses that currently are doing so. One of them was Jaipur Foot Company , a company specializing in prosthetics for the BoP. Though the need is there, with an estimated 10 million people in India suffering from loco-motor disability, the sheer cost – ranging upwards to $8,000 in the States – would preclude it to be a profitable venture. However, founder P.K Sethi devised a prosthetic foot, offering normal range of motion, as detailed in this case study, but at 0.4% (%7E$35/limb) of the U.S cost. This marginal cost catapulted production, with more than 350,000 limbs produced since 1975.

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Though some of these companies have operated for nearly 30 years, the intent of the exhibit is to generate awareness about design and its application to meeting basic needs at the base of the pyramid, as well as increase their productivity. Much like the proverbial American Dream – that of coming from very little to making it ’big’- these innovations offer a similar hope for those at the Base of the Pyramid to effectively lift themselves out of poverty.