Scott Anderson

Framing the BoP : Dalberg’s Gupta on avoiding negative definitions for BoP business

How we perceive people living at the base of the pyramid affects just about everything else a social entrepreneur, an NGO, or a multinational company does from that point on – whether it’s hiring, sourcing products from, or selling to low-income people.

Stuart L. Hart, founding director of the Emergent Institute and president of Enterprise for a Sustainable World, noted at the BoP Summit last month that it’s time to move away from BoP 1.0, or thinking of the BoP merely in terms of producers/consumers. Instead, Hart said it’s time to begin adopting a BoP 2.0 mindset. He defined that as considering the base of the pyramid as business partners, engaging in deep dialogue with customers, co-creating sustainable technologies and developing direct, personal relationships.

In short, Hart advocated a platform-based approach that harnesses several industries and sectors to fight poverty (think microfinance) instead of a “sharp-shooter” approach (think water filters).

That was the basis for my discussion with Gaurav Gupta, Dalberg’s regional director for Asia, after day one of the conference. Gupta also co-leads Dalberg’s Energy and Environment practice, where his work centers on developing social impact strategies for multinational corporations, expanding energy access, assisting market entry into frontier markets, and helping to develop strategies to fight human trafficking. (Check out this NextBillion post he co-wrote analyzing the market for off-grid electricity).

Gupta doesn’t just analyze the conditions of business solutions to poverty, he’s been initimately involved as a founding partner in a string of social ventures including two eco-resorts, a sustainable tourism online platform, an organic tea plantation, and an eco-friendly fair trade fashion label.

In our interview below, Gupta makes a persuasive argument that we need to think a little differently about how we frame the idea of base of the pyramid business, as well as the progress being made in poverty alleviation through market practices.

Video shot and edited by James Militzer.

Base of the Pyramid