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Strategic Innovation at the Base of the Pyramid

Brazil’s poorest households have an annual total income of around $73 billion per annum; China’s have an annual income of about $691 billion; and India’s have an income of about $378 billion. However, even though there has been a burst of interest in recent years in how economic growth is unfolding in the developing world, most of the research is still focused on how growth occurs in developed markets. Strategic innovation in developing markets is fundamentally different from what occurs in developed economies, the authors argue. It is not about locating “new whos” (assuming the products and services are affordable, there are plenty of under- and nonconsuming customers to tap). More often, it involves adapting existing products to customers with fewer resources or different cultural backgrounds and creating basic market ingredients such as distribution channels and customer demand from the ground up. Using examples from mobile telephony in the Philippines; consumer goods, power equipment, and auto industries in India; the personal care market in Brazil; and the appliance industry in China, the authors discuss cases from companies including Smart Communications, Hindustan Unilever, Tata Motors, Eveready, and Haier. They present a framework for strategic innovation based on four factors (affordability, acceptability, availability and awareness) and show how companies can create value.

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