Moses Lee

The Top 5 List: Best New BoP Teaching Cases

I wanted to take a moment to write about some of the best new base of the pyramid teaching cases that have been released through the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan. For those of you who are educators, you may want to consider adding these to your fall, winter, or spring syllabus. If you are an educator, you can view all of these case studies online for free by registering on

The Top 5 List

  1. Jaipur Rugs (CK Prahalad): This is one of the late CK Prahalad’s final cases. Beginning with the purchase of two rug looms in 1978, Jaipur Rugs CEO, N.K. Chaudhary has built the largest hand knotted rug export company in India, employing 40,000 people across seven states in north India. The Jaipur Rugs business model has successfully connected rural poor with markets of the rich, through the development of a global supply chain, built around mobilizing human capability and skills at the grassroots level and finding steady jobs for rural men and women in the most depressed parts of India. Mr. Chaudhary has defined his leadership style in this way: “Leadership means losing oneself. The more someone loses himself, the more he can understand about society. The more I lose my ego, the more I can see the talent in my people and the society.”
  2. Acumen Fund – How to Make the Greatest Impact (Ted London): Acumen Fund is one of the hotest names in the social VC space today. The company seeks to prove that small amounts of philanthropic capital, combined with large doses of business acumen, can build thriving enterprises that serve vast numbers of the poor at the base of the pyramid. In recent years, the organization has expanded its work into talent building and knowledge creation. This case explores management’s tension of how to best use a $10 million contribution by a family foundation to make the greatest impact for the poor.
  3. Vision Correction in the Developing World (Aneel Karnani): BoP critic Aneel Karnani writes a case is about a major unmet social need: vision correction. Even though technologically this is a simple problem to solve – eyeglasses – it is not being solved. Over 500 million people with refractive error continue to do without vision correction and lead less productive lives than they could if they had eyeglasses. It would seem that private companies could profitably supply eyeglasses to the poor. Essilor, a French multinational company that is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of plastic eyeglass lenses, has developed an innovative approach to selling eyeglasses to the poor in rural India. The case describes Essilor’s strategy and provides enough data to do a simple economic analysis of the project. The case next describes VisionSpring, a NGO that supplies reading glasses to the poor in developing countries. The case question centers on whether the two approaches are working and challenges students to consider creative solutions that might work better.
  4. Acumen Fund – Valuing a Social Venture (A & B) (Gautam Kaul): Acumen Fund is a social venture capital fund that primarily supports ventures that deliver goods and services to the poor. This support involves using a variety of financial vehicles, such as debt and equity, to develop sustainable and scalable social ventures. In this case, Acumen Fund is performing a due diligence on Ziqitza Healthcare Limited, a for-profit ambulance company in India. The case involves assessing ZHL’s business model, calculating firm value, and drafting an initial term sheet.
  5. Applying Design Thinking to Your Social Venture (Jocelyn Wyatt): Today, most innovative and high-impact social ventures operating at the base of the economic pyramid (BoP) are applying the principles of design thinking to better develop and deliver their solutions. The concept of design thinking involves immersing oneself into communities to better understand the habits and lifestyles of the people and iterating on ideas and solutions to get them right. This approach to problem solving is helping many social ventures excel and deliver long-lasting impact. This note will help unpack the design thinking process so that you will be able to apply it to your social venture and make the real impact you are looking for.