Friday, July 13, 2007

The latest report from the Aspen Institute finds that courses dealing with the “bottom of the pyramid” — markets serving the world’s poor — are growing exponentially in business programs around the world.

The report highlights data from a biennial survey conducted by the Business and Society Program at the Aspen Institute. The Beyond Grey Pinstripes report surveys 112 business schools in 23 countries about their educational and research practices and is the group’s first look at just how large the interest is in BOP issues at schools worldwide.

“Bottom of the Pyramid is a hot topic in the business world now, and it’s also experienced a remarkable growth in the MBA world,” said Rich Leimsider, senior program associate at the Aspen Institute. “It has just exploded internationally over the last 4 years: students love it, and there are courses on it at schools around the world.”

The “Bottom of the Pyramid,” or “Base of the Pyramid,” is a term for the roughly 4 billion people who live on less than U.S.$3,000 per year. A recent study reported on by GreenBiz found that the BOP markets represent as much as $5 trillion in revenue, and offers a key to significant improvement in the quality of life for people in poor and developing countries.

The Aspen Institute’s report cites three examples of the kinds of businesses that serve the bottom of the pyramid: 2006 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus’s Grameen Bank, which offers microloans to entrepreneurs at affordable interest rates; PlayPumps, a water pump that is powered by children playing on a merry-go-round; and cell phone companies who are reaching out to sell cheap phones to remote villages.

Leimsider said these direct-business practices are a big part of BOP’s draw for business students. “This is not about corporate philanthropy, or a side aspect of business practices,” he said. “It really is about how fundamental mainstream business can make a difference. It’s about how mainstream product marketing can make the world a better place.”

Full article.

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