(Bottom of the) pyramid selling
Monday, April 23, 2012
IS THERE anything more prestigious than business?” What would sound tin-eared from the mouth of Mitt Romney reads very differently when attributed to a woman of long-standing poverty, discussing her newly found self-respect. The quotation comes from a recent paper by a trio of female researchers from Oxford University’s Saïd Business School—Catherine Dolan, who lectures in marketing and corporate social responsibility; Mary Johnstone-Louis, a doctoral candidate; and Linda Scott, of the Oxford Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The researchers studied a sales programme that employs Bangladeshi women at the proverbial bottom of the pyramid, run by the Bangladesh arm of CARE, an NGO. Its Rural Sales Programme (RSP) focuses on women who are destitute due to abandonment by their family or the deaths of their husbands. CARE calls the women aparajitas (a Sanskrit term meaning “she who cannot be defeated”) and offers them jobs selling household goods, such as soap, household goods, even saris. Begun in 2005, RSP now employs more than 2,400 women across Bangladesh and has partnerships with companies such as Unilever, Danone and Bic.