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C.K. Prahalad

The fortune at the bottom of the pyramid

The poorest people in the world have so little money that it seems no-one should see them as a source of profit. C.K. Prahalad argues otherwise. In The fortune at the bottom of the pyramid: eradicating poverty through profits he explains how the poor can be lifted out of poverty by being treated as customers rather than just as recipients of aid.

Not that it's easy though. Prahalad argues that it is no use just trying to sell 'hand me downs' from richer countries Rather the poor require the latest technology - the technology must provide what is provided by infrastructure in richer countries. The margins for each individual customer are very small, but there is the potential for high sales volumes. The main part of the book comprises 11 case studies of businesses which have found ways of solving these problems. Several are concerned with health services, provided at a tiny fraction of what they would cost in richer countries. There are also examples of how health can be greatly improved with simple products such as medicated soap and iodized salt. Others examples are concerned with financial services, getting people out the clutches of notorious moneylenders.

This is an updated edition, and I felt the additions tended to interrupt the flow of reading somewhat, but that's a minor point. The book certainly has an important message, and I would recommend it for anyone interested in improving the lot of the poorest people in the world.