The Business Solution to Poverty: Designing Products and Services for Three Billion New Customers
Paul Polak, Mal Warwick
The key is what Paul Polak and Mal Warwick call Zero-Based Design: starting from scratch to create innovative products and services tailored for the very poor, armed with a thorough understanding of what they really want and need and driven by what they call “the ruthless pursuit of affordability.”Polak has been doing this work for years, and Warwick has extensive experience in both business and philanthropy. Together, they show how their design principles and vision can enable unapologetic capitalists to supply the very poor with clean drinking water, electricity, irrigation, housing, education, healthcare, and other necessities at a fraction of the usual cost and at profit margins attractive to investors.
Promising governmental and philanthropic efforts to end poverty have not reached scale because they lack the incentives of the market to attract massive resources. This book opens an extraordinary opportunity for nimble entrepreneurs, investors, and corporate executives that will result not only in vibrant, growing businesses but also a better life for the world’s poorest people.
demonstration of the low-cost pump. By enabling farmers to bring water to the surface from depths as great as 25 feet, the treadle pump is often used in combination with low-cost drip-irrigation systems. Simple products like the treadle pump can be manufactured locally at extremely low cost in most poor countries. Here, a shop in India machines parts for treadle pumps, which can be sold at a profit for $25 — including the cost of digging the well. A workshop like the one pictured here may
Walmart’s position in the global market is dominant. Will it stay there for 20 more years? 30? 50? Probably not, we believe — unless the company’s management finds a way to bring its legendary efficiency to bear on serving the world’s poor as well as the middle class. • Coca-Cola sells aspirationally branded, carbonated sugar water for about 25 cents a bottle in villages all over India. In those same villages, 50 percent of the children are malnourished. What would happen to Coca-Cola if a
produces little of intrinsic value, businesses create, market, and distribute products and services that the public values. That used to be enough. In recent years, though, businesses have found that increasing numbers of consumers and investors expect more of business than … well, simply doing business. Companies that fail to address the legitimate needs of their many stakeholders — including employees, customers, suppliers, and the communities where they do business — and are not working to
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/indepth_coverage/africa/design/index.html?type=flash. More information on the book of the same title is available at http://www.amazon.com/Design-Other-90-Cynthia-Smith/dp/0910503974. To learn more about Design with the Other 90 Percent: Cities,” see http://www.designother90.org/cities/home. 6. For more information about D-Lab, see http://d-lab.mit.edu/. Chapter 6 1. Pamposh Raina, Ian Austen, and Heather Timmons, “An Idea Promised the Sky, but India Is Still
Pickar’s design classes at Caltech. In the past four years, the formation of Windhorse International and its Indian counterpart, Spring Health India, have helped shape the concepts of frontier multinationals serving $2-a-day customers described in these pages. Dave Taylor, CEO of Ball Aerospace, accompanied Paul to India to visit Spring Health’s water kiosks, and now Ball Aerospace has become a valuable collaborator in creating the affordable solar technology that anchors one of the energy