Rob Katz

Guest Post: Niti Bhan from the Helsinki BoP Conference – Speaker Insights

Niti BhanGuest blogger Niti Bhan has been developing and implementing new market strategies for both the developed and developing world for almost two decades. An established author and speaker, her research interests include the challenge of designing effective business and transaction models intended for those with irregular and unpredictable incomes.

The Emerging Futures Lab is a small, multidisciplinary team that aims to increase the understanding the people at the base of the pyramid across the developing world in order to improve the success rate of new ventures, products and services intended to serve this market in a holistically beneficial manner.?

By Niti Bhan

Here in Helsinki, a number of speakers made insightful comments about the state of base of the pyramid strategy, practice and research.?Dr. Prabhu Kandachar pointed out that the BoP protocol put the needs of business first whereas the Delft BoP model put human beings at the center of the development process for sustainable business models, services and products. Business, it was felt, was a service to the end user not the primary criterion. On the other hand, his work drew heavily on the foundational research conducted by World Resources Institute and, both of whom are very well respected in the European BoP community.

Rama Bijapurkar, one of India’s leading consumer insights researchers and consultants, highlighted some facts about the poor:

  • The very poor spend almost the same percentage of their income on their children’s education as the very rich.
  • Their attitude towards health is very preventive since theirs is often a case of “no health, no income” that is, they can?t afford to fall ill.
  • They know the value of their time and make decisions that maximize their income generated versus time spent working, for example a women may choose to wash dishes in three houses over the weekend, quickly, to make the same amount as spending the entire weekend looking after the children in one employer’s home.
  • The poor in India are extremely sensitive to social stigma and often preferred technological solutions because as they said “an ATM doesn’t care if you’re poor, badly dressed or can’t speak English”. Pride and status are very important to them.

Mika Skarp,of Nokia Siemens Networks Village Connection program made one very insightful comment relevant for any social entrepreneur. He said “You cannot afford to be based in an office in expensive New Delhi or Mumbai and then try to serve the poor profitably.” It won’t happen without an effective cost structure hence innovative ways of doing business were needed.