Cornell Announces BoP Essay Contest Winners

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise at the Johnson School at Cornell University is pleased to announce the winners of its 2nd annual Base of the Pyramid (BoP) Narrative Competition. Sponsored by USAID and International Finance Corporation (IFC), the competition was developed to highlight the challenges of doing business in underserved markets and identify innovative business experiments or solutions to those challenges.

Open to all, this competition attracted over 100 submissions from 18 countries, illustrating a diverse array of businesses in 37 countries. Judges with expertise in journalism and BoP enterprise development used a double blind review process to select the winners. They evaluated the quality of writing as well as whether the initiative illustrated a unique approach to poverty alleviation through an innovative business model, product, service, or technology. The winning submissions were able to clearly articulate a business challenge that an organization, either a non-profit or for-profit enterprise, working in low-income communities is striving to overcome.

First place with a prize of US$4,000 went to Elijah Abisheg, a graduate student at XLRI School of Business in India who wrote about SELCO, a business that provides solar light systems to homes and street vendors in rural India where the average monthly per capita income is approximately US$42. Despite the cost of the solar electric light system, SELCO has successfully created a model that enables individuals to expand their existing income and pay for the system in five years.

Second place went to co-authors Frank Pichel with International Land Systems (ILS) and Joseph Okyere with Opportunity International Savings and Loans Limited (OISL), who highlighted a private sector-led approach to land titling in Ghana. Due to complex regulations and procedures, many citizens in developing countries do not hold title to the land on which they live. Through their partnership, ILS and OISL have successfully streamlined the process and developed a unique financing mechanism.

Third place went to the graduate student team of Amit Gupta at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, India, and Kumar Vijay Mishra at Colorado State University. Their paper explored the struggle the poor in India have in finding hygienic sanitation facilities and the opportunity for establishing community toilets with a well-defined cost sharing formula.

“Through the Base of the Pyramid Learning Lab, the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise supports research on innovation and new market creation in underserved communities,” commented Monica Touesnard, managing director of the BoP Learning Lab. “This global competition was designed to raise awareness of some of the most innovative business ventures that are already improving the livelihoods for the world’s poorest people and communities.”

The winning essays are posted on the BoP Learning Lab website at Additional stories from the competition will be posted at later dates.

Source: Press Release (link opens in a new window)