Monday, July 19, 2010

What is BOP? And Why You Should Care

Bottom of the pyramid (BOP) is greater than half of the world population. And if you are reading this, chances are you are not BOP. But, read on anyway. Once upon a time BOP was the "third world" and the model of interaction (if any) with the BOP was charity or social services (like welfare). Activists ruled as the keepers of our conscience. With globalisation came the need for cheap(er) labor and BOP became the "emerging market". Entrepreneurs ruled. But then things got complicated. First world infrastructure (innovated at the dawn of the industrial age) did not scale in sustainable fashion to meet either the third world/emerging market needs or first world lifestyle. Worse still, communication channels (innovated in the computer age) became digital - making all this mess in live action, color video for all to see at the click of a button. So now what?
Now is the time to merge the best of activism and entrepreneurship and think of BOP as an innovation engine. It is the space for activism, entrepreneurship and business model innovation that allows for leapfrogging tired old industrial age technologies that are proving too costly in terms of environmental as well as human health. More than half the world population is a good market incentive for innovation.

We stand at a crossroad today where either we continue to export sustainability-challenged technologies or we partner with the BOP as the "next bench" to develop new technologies and create a new market at the same time.  

So - Is BOP Market or Strategy? A Mirage at the bottom of the pyramid? Capitalism gone haywire or Socialism gone haywire? A case for philanthropy? OR its not my problem; because its not interesting? or I can’t do anything about it?

I prefer to think of BOP as an innovation driver and as we know innovation is an extreme sport. Life would be dull without it. So watch it, support it, get involved. MediaX is kicking off a year of 21st Century Conversations with an all day seminar on Wednesday July 21called Social Media and Social Technologies: Changing Personal and Civic Conversations. the topic for my panel is : The New Realities of Grassroots and Civic Activism.

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