Tag Archives: international development

On CK Prahalad and his impact on social entrepreneurship

I, like many others, was saddened to hear of the untimely passing away of Prof. C. K. Prahalad. His career spanned over three decades during which time he introduced several innovative business ideas that quickly became mainstream. He was one of the first to identify ‘core competencies’ of a business and relate it to a company’s competitive advantage. His next book introduced the concept of ‘co-creation’ where corporations engaged their customers in creating joint value. It influenced many of the approaches used by companies in the 2000s to get their customers to co-design products.

Perhaps his most widely influential work was his last book on “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through profits”. In it he outlined his take on how corporations could profitably service the very large market that consists of the bottommost economic strata. While the affluent tip of the global economic pyramid consists of less than 100 million people who make over $20,000 a year, there are over 2 to 2.5 Billion people who live on less than $2 a day. Yet these markets at the bottom of the economic pyramid also have needs and wants. By properly designing products and delivery mechanisms to satisfy this segment of the consumer population, he showed how companies could make money while helping this social segment.

His Bottom of the Pyramid or BOP approach quickly caught on and today a range of multinationals are focused on creating solutions that are targeting this market segment. Examples of these include Hindustan Lever, Godrej and GE Healthcare. His philosophy that even the poorest segment had a real market need and were a viable market has helped redirect corporate strategies and will have significant impact across the globe.

CK Prahalad has been honored for his work around the world including most recently being awarded the Padma Bhushan, one of the highest civilian honors, by the Indian Government. The world will miss this strategic thinker but his legacy will continue to improve the quality of life for millions subsisting at the bottom of the pyramid. 

You can read an earlier piece I wrote about his work on my blog at “Designing for the bottom of the pyramid”.

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The Blue Sweater a book by Acumen Fund founder Jacqueline Novogratz

I had gotten a copy of Acumen Fund founder, Jacqueline Novogratz’s, book “The Blue Sweater” a couple of months ago and had kept promising myself that I would read it. Finally as I was leaving on a short trip to India, I threw it in my bag hoping to get to it during my visit. As the long 15 plus hour trip from Newark to Bombay stretched before me, I settled myself in as best as I could and opened the book expecting to read a few pages and then sleep as much as possible for the rest of the flight.

Once I started reading I was hooked. Before I knew it I had plowed through the entire volume. This is an extraordinary and powerful book. My personal interest in social entrepreneurship, particularly in solving issues in the developing world, had led me to peruse many books in the field – from the seminal one by David Bornstein to Jeff Sachs and Prof. Yunus. Each provided a perspective on development with solutions and suggestions. Yet somehow this book was different. Continue reading

Jacqueline Novogratz – Legatum Lecture at MIT

We are a connected world said Jacqueline as she described the story of her blue sweater, also the title of her recently published book. Once discarded by her at Goodwill, it turned up 25 years later in Rwanda where she found it on a boy in the countryside.

Speaking at the Legatum Center’s Lecture series at MIT, she described the innovative work of Acumen fund and how it helps build social solutions through its venture philanthropy.

She prefaced her talk by some of her observations from her work helping to build enterprises around the world that she undertook since her time in Rwanda.

  • Dignity is more important than wealth for the human spirit.
  • Traditional models of charity won’t solve problems of poverty.
  • Markets can’t solve poverty. 100 Million people went back into poverty last year and that is what happens when you only rely on market forces to solve these problems.
  • What is needed is patient capital that will address these problems

Continue reading

Two social visionaries from India

We were pleased to have Vibha Krishnamurthy and Ashish Karamchandani visit us in Boston on Sunday.

Vibha Krishnamurthy is the founder of Ummeed, (http://www.ummeed.org ) a first-of-its kind center addressing the needs of the estimated 35 million children in India with developmental disabilities. After completing her fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital, Vibha moved back to Bombay determined to bring world class care to disabled children in India. She founded Ummeed in 2001 and it now supports over 1000 patient visits a week. Ummeed provides early diagnosis of development disabilities followed by in-house professional, medical and therapeutic care. It allows families to continue proper care and therapy at home by providing training and education programs for parents. For her tireless efforts to bring care to the disadvantaged, Vibha was named an Ashoka Fellow in 2007. http://www.ashoka.org/fellow/4900

Vibha’s husband, Ashish Karamchandani is a visionary in his own right. Ashish returned to India to head Monitor’s Indian consulting office where he spearheaded an effort within Monitor to address the challenges of global poverty with market based solutions. He was successful in starting a new area of research within Monitor, Monitor Inclusive Markets, (http://www.mim.monitor.com) that he now leads. The group has brought scientific and business approaches to providing market-based solutions and has initiated financially-sustainable enterprises to address the needs of the bottom 60% of the income pyramid in India. Their work has identified housing as one of the key areas where market based solutions can alter the social and economic landscape of the country. Ashish has recently published a comprehensive report “Emerging Markets, Emerging Models,” based on their solid fact-based research. Continue reading

HBS SE Conference Keynote by Linda Rottenberg of Endeavor

The opening keynote to the 10th annual HBS Social Enterprise Conference was a truly inspirational presentation by Linda Rottenberg from Endeavor, Inc.  Endeavor helps mentor and grow entrepreneurs in developing countries. It has screened over 18000 candidates and selected 400 entrepreneurs, who have generated over 86,000 jobs and $2.5 billion in revenue.

Linda traced the arc of social entrepreneurship as it accelerated over the past decade from an idea to formally becoming a key movement. Here are some of my notes from the session.

She pointed out that the long path was facilitated with three key developments.

  • When Bono became the symbol for AIDS in Africa with his RED Campaign, he made social activism cool
  • When Prof Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace prize, he instantly became the visible leader from within the field.
  • When Bill Gates went beyond establishing his foundation and stepped down from Microsoft to focus exclusively on his philanthropic work and presented his vision of Creative Capitalism, he made social entrepreneurship mainstream.

It is clear that government cannot solve all social problems. Businesses on the other hand are not always there to fill in the gaps. This is where social entrepreneurs come in. Continue reading