Manuel Bueno

The Business Model of Hope and Dreams

A380 lands in Mumbai AirportIt is often the case that business models touch but rarely elaborate on the aspirational value of many products offered for the first time at the BOP level and the subconscious consequences they have on BOP consumers. I recently read, with a touch of sadness, a short article published in the Sunday Times on September 30th called: “Book now for the flight to nowhere.”

In this article the author talks about an old airplane, an Airbus 300, in Delhi. This airplane never actually takes off. But it offers the service of helping passengers imagine how it would be to take a flight. The plane only has one wing and is missing part of its tail. Meals are served with a trolley cart, and a generator powers the air-conditioning.

The plane simulates its flight every Saturday. Irrespective of the veracity of this story, it points to an acute unmet need at the BOP: the need for consumers to believe there is something more out there worth aspiring for and worth fighting for. There are, by now, several business models for the BOP–many that I have probably never heard about. Their primary aim is often to let the BOP customer avoid the poverty trap and poverty penalties associated with BOP markets while integrating them into the global economy.

But poverty penalties do not only include higher prices for worse goods, and they are not only about dirty water or non-existent transportation. Getting a hold of certain goods or services for the first time makes a visible difference. It marks the beginning of a change, of a promise. When women within Self Help Groups open their very first savings accounts, when customers receive mobile phone bills addressed to their names, when a new well is built closer to their house, when their children are given a book–these are events that give birth to a hopeful promise.

Mariona Puig, of CEOs without Borders, explained it to me with different words some time ago:

It is about living in the present. Tomorrow you might be dead, or your kids might get sick and just die. You do not want to think about tomorrow. There is no tomorrow. There isn?t even a noun for it. It does not exist. How on earth do you get them to open a savings account?

But the future exists for everyone. It only varies in how we perceive it and how much importance we attach to it.

We all dream at one point or another. When we dream, we hope. We make a wish about ourselves and the world in which we live. We dare to challenge what we do not like. We dare to imagine that things could be different. We break from our mental jail and dare to dream. We fight. It is an act of bravery against being accepting and submissive. We decide to shape our future.

When BOP consumers purchase something that used to be outside their limits, something they sometimes didn?t even know existed, they realize something within. They meet that need, sometimes forgotten, to believe there is a future.

And, like with many other dreams, the dream grows in complexity and becomes more detailed the more it is visited. The more the dream is recreated, the better it is created anew. Eventually, the dream spills over into reality. When BOP consumers purchase something that used to be outside the limits, they realize, they remind themselves, that things can be different. And they dream and wish and fight. And by doing all that they start to break free.