Making money in the dollar-a-day economies

The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid shows how you can turn in a profit in even the poorest countries.

by Stefan Stern
Last Updated: 02 Jul 2015

Most business bestsellers tell you how to be successful, become richer, and deal mainly with competition in the developed world. Indeed, together with Gary Hamel, the late CK Prahalad wrote one of the most influential books of this kind in 1996, Competing for the Future.

But a decade later Prahalad turned his attention to the developing world, the 'dollar a day' economies found in the poorest countries. His idea was striking. Big business could make big money even in underdeveloped markets, he said. The genius of capitalism resides in meeting needs at a profit. You just had to find the right price and the right product or service.

So Hindustan Lever (the Indian arm of Unilever) could develop its 'Shakti' network of saleswomen working in remote villages, offering affordable soaps and cosmetics, making money sustainably.

This is about so much more than mere CSR. Prahalad popularised an approach, taken up later by Michael Porter with his notion of 'shared value', that commercial instincts could satisfy social needs profitably.

I once asked CK Prahalad what he thought about CSR. 'Well,' he said with a smile, 'it is better than nothing.' And this book is much, much better than CSR.

Stefan Stern is visiting professor at Cass Business School. Follow him on Twitter: @StefanStern

The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid by CK Prahalad, Wharton School Publishing, 2004

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