Scott Anderson

Weekly Roundup: SOCAP Discounts, Data Delivery, And Spontaneous Innovation

Your SOCAP Discount

When summer begins to wane, SOCAP preparations begin to warm up. Yes, it’s hard to believe that Social Capital Markets, that magnetic north on the compass of many impact investors, is less than two months away. NextBillion is proud to serve as media partner again this year for the San Francisco event and the kind folks at SOCAP have extended a 30% registration discount for NextBillion readers. To register using the discount, click here and remember to include the NextBillion30 in the promotional code.

A few studies …

A few research reports and studies worth your time:

• In its July 31 issue, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), published a special series of articles under the title: Paths of convergence for agriculture, health, and wealth. That convergence, “aims for a richer integration of smallholder farmers into national and global agricultural and food systems, health systems, value chains, and markets.” The series is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and addresses a number of pressing concerns around nutrition, food and income security. Among the featured research reports is the an article by Ted London and Ravi Anupindi, Using the Base of the Pyramid perspective to catalyze interdependencebased collaboration, that explores new approaches in cross-sector partnerships. Other papers in the series address Gendered production and consumption in rural Africa, Global standards and local knowledge building: Upgrading small producers in developing countries, and Supermarket revolution in Asia, and emerging development strategies to include small farmers.

• The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) this week came out with a brief report titled “Information and communication technology – An enabler for inclusive business solutions.” It’s the final product of the Vodafone-led Technology Enablers Initiative – a WBCSD platform for a variety of different companies to collaborate and catalyze inclusive business models by harnessing ICT. The brief includes several case studies from WBCSD member-companies including Accenture, Grundfos, IBM, ITC, Nokia, Novartis, Syngenta, TNT Express, and Vodafone. The case studies demonstrate what many of us already know: ICT-enabled services are low-income communities, local businesses, and large companies across multiple industries. But the brief also reveals several areas, from infrastructure to public policy, where improvements can be made.

• By 2020 more than half of all Chinese urban households will be solidly middle class, up from 6 percent in 2010. It’s one surging economy that will contribute to a massive ‘consuming class’ with daily disposable income of $10 a day or more by 2025. Consulting firm McKinsey estimates more than half of our world’s population will make up this cohort with some $30 trillion in annual buying power, according to a new report the $30 Trillion Decathlon: Going for gold in emerging markets.

The study cautions companies from falling into the “false dichotomy” between the nouveau riche and the BoP “for whom the overriding purchase criterion is getting the lowest price. Instead, the researchers advocate companies look for ways create more sophisticated pricing and product strategies that “balance scale and local relevance.” The report includes several case studies, from Frito-Lay to telecom firms that are doing just that. It also provides 10 disciplines that companies need to employ to compete effectively.

‘Innovation must happen spontaneously’

A final thought this week from R. Gopalakrishnan, director at Tata Sons. On Thursday he gave the keynote address for the C.K. Prahalad Memorial Lecture, hosted by Aspen Institute India.

Gopalakrishnan dispelled the myth that first-to-market companies are typically the industry winners.

“The world is not just about big bets. It’s usually about small people taking small bets. Innovation must happen spontaneously.”

He also presented a real-world example to illustrate the point:

“… people who have been the first ones have often failed to create a place. And then they are often forgotten. A classic instance is that of coconut oil. Tatas were the first ones to come out with the offerings but today Marico is synonymous with coconut oil,” he said, according to a story in The Hindu Business Line.

There’s a tendency to write off social enterprises or BoP-focused businesses because of a lack of “success stories.” But given how young the space is, it’s probably worth reminding ourselves that many of the first innovators in social enterprise or BoP providers (insert company name here) are probably no longer in business, or are working under radically different management structures. It applies to mature industries as well as nascent ones.

After all, chances are you are not reading this on a Palm Pilot.