Dow Corning Offers Workers Cold Showers With Bugs to Build Sales

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

When Brad Fogg did volunteer work in India, the adventure came with unwelcome insects and other discomforts, as well as a chance to benefit the country and find opportunities for his employer, Dow Corning Corp.

“It was not easy putting up with cold-water showers, bugs, unreliable electricity and stomach problems from the different foods,” said Fogg, a commercial manager in Michigan who went to Ujire in southern India to design a peeling machine for a nut important to the local economy. “But that was all part of the adventure of getting to know India’s society and culture and the opportunities bottom-of-the-pyramid markets offer.”

Dow Corning, a silicone supplier whose materials are used in products from cars to parachutes, is among a wave of companies, including SAP AG (SAP) and International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), sending employees on volunteer assignments to developing countries. In return, the businesses anticipate greater loyalty from workers, improved skills, insight into growth markets and more sales.

“Our volunteering program is an incredibly rich source of business ideas and an inexpensive source of market research,” said Laura Asiala, director of corporate citizenship at Dow Corning. Two volunteer teams sent to India in the last two years have come up with almost 30 business ideas in renewable energy and affordable housing, Asiala said.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek (link opens in a new window)

Base of the Pyramid