Paul Polak ? Developing Products for ’The Other 90 Percent’ of Humanity

Thursday, September 29, 2011

He listened first, then designed products for the world’s poorest people long before the term ’social entrepreneur’ came into use.

  • Go spend time with your new market. Understand their needs. Do not presuppose that you know the answer.
  • Multinationals can play a role in this. It’s about collaborating. They can contribute to the development of millions of people’s lives by offering them goods and services they need at a price they can afford. But they have to design for the BoP (Bottom of the Pyramid) to do so.
  • Don’t give it away. Giving away doesn’t help. There’s not enough money in the world to just keep on giving endlessly.
  • Market approaches work better. So, build a product for your market that they’ll want to purchase.

Paul Polak designs rarely go beyond $40. They’re a bargain, but not for you and me – they’re a bargain designed for the millions of people who are now categorized as the Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP).

His latest project will help change the distribution of clean water in eastern India.

Polak is anything but a rookie or new-found social entrepreneur. He’s been at this challenge for decades. Polak set up IDE, International Development Enterprises, in 1981, seeking solutions through business and innovation for the BoP. His work led him to interview over thousands of families and entrepreneurs in the developing world (over 3,000 if you’re counting). In fact, in chatting with Paul, he highlights that it was those discussions that led him to build some of his best innovations.

In 2008, he founded D-Rev, short for Design Revolution. D-Rev takes the talent of some of the best designers and focuses it on developing products for the “other 90 percent.” Polak also sits at the helm of Windhorse International, a for-profit social venture that does similar work and aspires to revolutionize the way companies look at the BoP.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor (link opens in a new window)