Gijs Ockeloen doing the BoP

The BoP. One of those abbreviations that makes you frown at first, but after you tried it a few times it quickly becomes embedded in your own vocabulary and before you know you may find yourself talking for hours about the BoP. I am even attending a conference on the BoP at this very moment. Mind you that semantically 'the Bop' is not entirely unambiguous. The abbreviation has already been taken more than once. That is probably why somebody at some point in time and space decided to squeeze the ‘o’ between those uppercases. It didn’t prevent the guy next to me on the plane assuming he was attending a conference discussing Blow Out Prevention devices. A revolutionary friend of mine has a Bay Of Pigs remembrance poster in his bedroom, and economists who are discussing the Bop are probably talking about Balance of Payments. But I flew to Mumbai to attend a conference on the Bottom of the Pyramid. We are going to elaborate on the vast potential of all those people living on half the amount I pay for my daily newspaper.

The BoP conference will proceed on the paradigmatic shift proposed by CK Prahalad and Stuart Hart back in 1998, that we all should stop thinking of the BoP as victims, but regarding them as consumers like anyone else: creative, critical, entrepreneurial, upward oriented. Initially the focus tended to be on potential benefits to companies targeting these markets responsive to their needs. Prahalad certainly triggered debate. Aneel Karnani, advanced the discussion with the suggestion to view the BoP as potential producers rather than consumers. Hart and Erik Simanis go even further in suggesting that the most prolific view is that of treating the BoP as creative entrepreneurs and that organizations seeking to address the BoP should aim for business alliances and co-creation involvement in their processes.


There is also controversy that already lurked around the corner: what about Status issues? Some critics claim that the disappointing Tata Nano sales are partly due to the fact that people may not want be seen behind the wheel of a car marketed as ‘the cheapest ever’.

And what about environmental issues? Keep in mind that the BoP is estimated to  contain 2.5 billion people, that is something like 5 times Western Europe... I would say the ‘Base of the ‘Pyramid Protocol’ Stuart Harts’ guidebook for companies, NGO’s, businesses, governments and donor agencies,  in developing business partnerships with income-poor communities should be rewritten into a BoP Rough Guide: a version that focuses on the absolute necessity for all of us to "co-create businesses and markets that mutually benefit, not just the companies and the BoP, but the entire planet. Lets hope the conference will do just that! I will keep you posted!






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