The Poor Deserve World-Class Products and Services

Monday, July 6, 2009

C.K. Prahalad, author of The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid; Eradicating Poverty through Profit (Wharton School Publishing, 2004), has long championed the notion that business — rather than government handouts — represents the most effective solution to poverty. In a keynote speech at the recent TiE Entrepreneurship Summit in New Delhi, he noted that India must pay more attention to entrepreneurship, which he described as “the essence of development.”

“We need to connect the poor through entrepreneurship, which enables wealth creation through transparent and legitimate means,” Prahalad said. He emphasized that businesses could create wealth for themselves, too, through poverty alleviation. “The poor deserve world class products and services.”

Devi Prasad Shetty, chairman of Narayana Hrudayalaya, a pediatric heart hospital in Bangalore, offered an example of Prahalad’s principles at work in health care. The hospital operates a low-cost health insurance program for farmers in the southern state of Karnataka. Each farmer contributes five rupees (13 cents) a month to the insurance program, while the government contributes another two-and-a-half rupees (7 cents) a month per farmer. The premiums from this pool of beneficiaries have permitted Narayana Hrudayalaya to operate upon 25,000 farmers and to offer free medical consultation to 85,000 more. “This year we have increased the monthly contribution by farmers to Rs 10 (25 cents) a month, but still, we hope to cover 13 million individuals using the world’s largest telemedicine network to deliver critical health services to rural areas,” Shetty said.

The network permits Narayana Hrudayalaya to provide cardiac services to villages in India’s hinterland that have few doctors and little medical coverage. “We have started placing ECG (electro cardiograph) machines in general practitioners’ clinics, where [cardiac] tests can be administered. The reports are sent to us over custom-built software,” Shetty said. Narayana Hrudayalaya gets the results over phone lines, allowing cardiologists at the hospital to diagnose the problem and prescribe treatment. As a result, Shetty said, the hospital was able to deliver “world class quality service to the doorstep of rural Indians.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal (link opens in a new window)