Why the BoP should care about profiting from the ToP
Aishwarya Ratan, Microsoft Research India
The framers of the Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) phrase and approach – C.K.Prahalad, Stuart Hart, and Alan Hammond – present it as a way for businesses, large and small, domestic and multinational, to target the poor primarily as consumers, and sell products and services to them at low cost, large scale, and thin margins to gain a new revenue stream. While profitable to the company, they argue that such inclusion in the marketplace is simultaneously effective in helping the poor exit poverty in a sustainable fashion. Critics of the BoP approach like Karnani argue that neither are there significant profits nor significant poverty alleviation outcomes to be had from selling to the poor. Instead, involving the poor in the marketplace as producers and workers and improving their productive capabilities through public investment is what is required to systematically alleviate poverty. It would appear that given the deep linkages between consumption and production at the household level, the magic bullet to end poverty must involve advancements in both products/prices and earnings/wages.
In this paper, we view the entire private sector and economic development debate through the eyes of the BoP. Were the BoP household or individual to examine the status quo, it would be clear that great profits are to be had from selling to those at the Top of the Pyramid (ToP). We examine these two contrasting foci, i.e. viewing the BoP primarily as consumers vs. producers, from a poverty alleviation standpoint, using evidence from field studies in rural India. Comparing 'social enterprise' private sector initiatives that focus on the poor as producers of innovative products and services against those that target the poor as consumers, we present a preliminary assessment of which market-driven path facilitates greater impact on helping the poor exit poverty. We end with pointers on how inverting the classic BoP premise through direct linkages of the very poor as cooperative producers of niche products/services with the very rich as target consumers can make real inroads into ‘ending poverty through profits'.
Moving the Bottom of the Pyramid Upward:
Mobile Phones and the Expansion of Economic Networks in Morocco
 Hsain Ilahiane, Iowa State University
John Sherry, Intel Corporation
According to the International Telecommunication Union, there were 3.3 billion mobile phone users worldwide by the end of 2007, equivalent to a penetration rate of 49 percent. In Africa, for instance, only 4.7 percent of the population has access to the Internet while mobile users have surpassed landlines and represent about 90 percent of all telephone subscribers (ITU 2008). While these are remarkable numbers, it is also true that the vast majority of the world’s population still has no access to such information and communications technologies (ICTs). Partly as a result of this situation, and partly out of recognition that ICTs bring efficiencies to information and economic transactions, a number of researchers and practitioners have turned to ICTs as tools for poverty alleviation and sustainable development in the developing world. The thinking is that by making technology available and lowering the costs of access to information, ICTs will enable those in poor communities to better accomplish their own economic goals, and possibly lift themselves out of poverty. Associated with this approach is a shift in development thinking from “top-down” planning by states or foreign NGOs to an emphasis on “bottom-up” global market forces, regarded as critical for ICTs “to gain wide, robust and long-lived usage” (Best and Maclay 2002:76). This shift has also resulted in new ways of rethinking the role and participation of multinational corporations (MNCs) and the state. Prahalad and Hammond assert that “prosperity can come to the poorest regions only through the direct and sustained involvement of multinational companies” (2002:49). Markets that were once either too difficult to reach or too poor and informal to be of interest can, so the thinking goes, be made accessible and profitably addressed through the use of information technology.
As a portal for communications, asynchronous messaging, entertainment and information, the mobile phone has become the manifestation of the “digital age” for many of the world’s poor. And yet, amid the growing body of literature on the cultural effects of mobile telephony in affluent economies, in particular those of Scandinavia, Japan, and North America, less attention has been granted to technological adoption as a direct outcome of daily socio-economic needs and behavior patterns in the developing world. This paper addresses these issues in the context of Morocco. Between 1998 and 2007, the majority of Moroccans has gone from no phone ownership to ownership of mobile phones. Currently, more than two thirds of the population has a mobile phone, that is, about 20.5 million subscribers. This rapid adoption rate can be understood as the result of two major contributing factors, both of which will be explored in this paper: the neo-liberal economic reforms undertaken by the state in the mid-1980s, and the ease of use and utility of the mobile phone. This exceptional penetration rate of mobile telephony, as elsewhere in the developing world, underscores the degree to which this new technology has become part of everyday routines, and has been tinkered with to serve various communicative and economic needs. In this paper, we are concerned with ways in which urban and poor skilled and semi-skilled laborers use the mobile phone as a tool to organize a newly networked work life. Based on ethnographic and quantitative evidence, we argue that mobile phone use expands the productive opportunities of certain types of activities by enhancing social networks, reducing risks associated with employment seeking, and enabling bricolage or freelance service work, resulting in income increases. Our hope is that this paper will spur more discussion and research interest on the practical social and economic effects of mobile technologies in the developing world.
Women's Sociality, Infrastructure, and the Making of Payments Space in Cairo 
Julia Elyachar, UC Irvine
In this paper, I show how women’s practices of sociality in Cairo--visiting, talking, gossiping, helping out, and maintaining relationships--has created what I call an “infrastructure of communicative pathways” that has long been central to the texture of life and the political economy of survival in Cairo.  The paper shows how this infrastructure became visible in the 1980s and 90s through NGO-mediated financialization, and is being redrawn as “payments space” and “digital space” by large corporations investing in mobile phone technologies and e-payments
How M-PESA fits into and alters financial habits:
The results of the financial diaries project
Olga Morawczynski, University of Edinburgh
The M-PESA application has grown rapidly since its introduction into the Kenyan market in March of 2007. It has acquired a user base of over five million, and an agent network of over five thousand. This paper will provide a detailed analysis of M-PESA usage patterns in low-income Kenyan communities. It will show that the application is frequently being used for person-to-person (P2P) transfers between urban centres and rural areas. Urban M-PESA users make, on average, six of these transfers per month. The paper will further reveal that M-PESA is being used for savings by both banked and unbanked users. In some cases, the application is becoming a substitute for some of the informal savings mechanisms. 
This paper will draw from a financial diaries project, which took place from September to December of 2008. During this period, fourteen diaries were distributed in both urban and rural locations. The first batch was distributed in Kibera, an informal settlement on the outskirts of Nairobi. The majority of the participants in this group were male urban migrants. Most of these used M-PESA to transfer money back to their rural homes. The second batch of diaries was distributed in villages around Western Kenya. The majority of the participants in this group were female, and the wives of the urban migrants. The results of a fourteen month ethnographic study will also be used to substantiate the arguments of the paper. During this period, time was spent in Kibera and a small village in Western Kenya. The financial habits of users, and non-users, were examined.
The paper will begin by introducing M-PESA, and discussing the financial diaries methodology. It will then proceed to discuss the results of the financial diaries project. It will emphasize patterns of usage and non-usage. It will also make clear how M-PESA fit into, and altered, existing financial habits of poor Kenyans. The paper will conclude by contextualizing the results within the emerging literature on m-banking in developing countries. It will also suggest areas for future research.
Intermediaries and the BoP
Savita Bailur, London School of Economics
The "intermediary" is often considered critical in enhancing the participation of those at "the bottom of the pyramid" in information and communication technology initiatives, such as rural community multimedia centres (CMCs or telecentres).  The intermediary in this case can either be the centre manager, those providing technical assistance, or those providing content for the CMC such as the local doctor, agricultural officer etc.  Yet these intermediaries face several challenges.  This paper examines the case of intermediaries (the centre manager, doctor, vet, agricultural officer) involved in a UNESCO funded CMC in India. It finds that, firstly these intermediaries are effectively regarded by their superiors as the "bottom of the (developmentalist) pyramid" themselves. Secondly, they are regarded with some resentment by the local community, as paternalistic and colluding with the "outsiders".  Thirdly, these intermediaries impose their own technologically deterministic ideas onto the "bottom of the pyramid".  It is therefore questionable whether intermediaries enhance participation or hinder it. We call for more ethnographic research on understanding the role of the intermediary in the "bottom of the pyramid".
E-shopping through Drive-by WiFi in Rural India
Jo Tacchi, University of Edinburgh
In this presentation I will explore a particular example of an ICT initiative that follows the BoP model in a rural area of India. I will compare this initiative and its attempts to bring emerging digital communication technologies to people through engaging with them as a potentially viable market for their products, with donor-funded ICT initiatives that are concerned with how emerging technologies can aid in poverty reduction. The first initiative uses technologies in innovative ways, combining computers, WiFi and buses, to provide low cost services that are essentially designed to improve access to information and products that are unavailable locally. This is similar to an extent to many ICT for development initiatives, especially in the use of emerging technologies to increase access to information and knowledge. This presentation will explore some of the interesting similarities and important differences of these two approaches.

Taking Prahalad high-tech

Anke Schwittay, RiOS Institute
My talk explores the participation of multinational corporations (MNCs) in the BoP area and the ways in which corporate access to BoP subjects is created. Based on several years of ethnographic fieldwork, the focus of my presentation is Hewlett-Packard’s e-Inclusion program, which took place from 2000-2005. E-Inclusion is often considered the first major BoP initiative of a high-tech company, and, according to Prahalad, made the poor “a legitimate subject of senior management discussion.”
A brief institutional genealogy will be insightful to understand corporate dynamics around BoP initiatives. E-inclusion was started as a skunk work project at the famed HP Labs in Palo Alto by three ethically-minded long-term employees, underwent a ‘strategic reorientation’ to a fully-incorporated business initiative and finally was terminated following a change in HP’s leadership.
E-Inclusion pursued two different strategies for gaining access to the BoP. On the one hand, it partnered with governments and multilateral development organizations, and on the other it developed pilot projects that engaged directly with the ‘aspiring and enterprising’ poor identified by Prahalad as the most promising BoP subjects. An in-depth investigation of a project that aimed to develop a product for organic coffee farmers serves to highlight the importance of trust in corporate BoP transactions.
I will finish with a look at the remains of e-Inclusion; some of whose former managers went on to start BoP consulting companies.
The Hidden Phantasm of Corporate Social Structure: The Fight That Surprises Everyone, Even You
Tony Salvador, Intel Corporation
Large corporations (MNC's, multinational corporations) can be usefully construed as complex adaptive systems that function across a particular landscape. This is especially relevant to considerations of MNC involvement in "emerging markets", which we argue are best construed as unfamiliar populations with definitive, but unfamiliar system dynamics and social structures; they are not simply "poor" or "underdeveloped". Deciding to engage in "emerging markets" can be likened to participating in an unfamiliar landscape. While in general, it's fairly well established that entering new "markets" requires some level of corporate adaptation, there are three factors perhaps less well known that may also be helpful for the would be entrepreneur. First, the corporation itself must adapt to engage with those new potential markets to create sustainable exchange. However, corporations typically adapt to increase and maintain their fitness becoming highly optimized for their landscape. Thus, new landscapes pose potential challenges. Second, in "emerging markets", per se, there is a relatively high likelihood that the adaptation required will challenge the extant system fitness, posing a "system threat". The corporate system's overall "survival instinct" will then meet any innovation with systemic resistance, which unless otherwise addressed, will result in failure of the new engagement. Third, the corporate system's extant social structure will more often than not vitiate any appropriate adaptation to address and engage the new potential market -- even if individuals in the system are supportive of the new endeavor. Thus, the systemic manifestation of social structure is hidden phantasm: unseen, unheard, unknown and untold. Therefore, the probability of a large MNC innovating to engage unfamiliar populations to create sustainable markets (systems of exchange) is a highly improbable event, with no visible means of engagement, the likelihood of which increases not as a function of "market research", "the quality of the idea" or "the innovativeness of the technology", but as a function of how adequately and nimbly the corporation can adapt its otherwise highly successful system dynamics and actively create appropriate social structures to enable and facilitate an appropriate engagement.
Imagining the Bottom of the Pyramid  
Heather Horst, UC Irvine
Prahalad and Hart’s Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) strategy represents a radical re-conceptualization of the value of consumers and consumption in the developing world. Yet, and despite the recognition of agency and the innovative potential of the world’s poorest, BoP strategies also hinge upon assumptions about the basic desires and needs of the poor as well as the nature of social change. In this contribution to the “Bottom of the Pyramid in Practice” workshop, I explore the ways in which telecommunication companies imagine individuals at the bottom of the pyramid and, in turn, how these visions of the poor shape the potential for participation and development. Through an analysis of Digicel campaigns in Jamaica and Haiti, community development initiatives and the everyday use of mobiles among the poorest members of society, I demonstrate the variety of ways particular members of the poor are rendered invisible and irrelevant to BoP strategies. Exploring the close connection between youth, the future and technology as well as age, conservatism and the resistance to and/or support of change, I argue that BoP efforts to unleash the untapped potential of the poor tends to emphasize youth-oriented and public forms of participation, development and consumption. Integrating this case study with critical analyses of development (e.g. Ferguson 2006, Escobar 1995), particularly the close relationship between technology and economic development (Escobar 1994), I conclude by considering the implications of such imaginings of the poor who fail to conform to the youthful, entrepreneurial spirit of the BoP movement.
A New market or Development for the poor? Depoliticizing the Consumer

 Renee Kuriyan, Intel Corporation

Dawn Nafus, Intel Corporation 
This paper explores the multiplicity of ways by which notions of “the consumer” are rendered neutral and used as instruments of the state, businesses and individuals. Building on the work of James Ferguson, we find that the “consumer” can be considered a new anti-politics machine (1990). We argue that there is a process of depoliticization that occurs in relation to the consumer that goes beyond pragmatic commodity relations. This depoliticization abstracts consumers from the cultural frameworks within which they operate and become tools by which nation-states, corporations, designers, multilateral organizations and “consumers” themselves are able to construct identities, develop aspirations, and delineate boundaries between the public and private spheres. Indeed, the abstracted, decontextualized consumer lays the groundwork for relations between these entities to be built. It is through “the consumer” that partnerships come together to serve them.
We focus on the mapping of the figure of “the consumer” onto the poor through public and private strategies of serving the “Bottom of the Pyramid” with Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). With the BoP discourse of the poor as consumers, there is a conflation of consumer agendas and national development goals. This opens spaces for the orchestration of specific national, corporate and individual agendas. For example, it creates opportunities for new forms of engagement for Information Technology corporations with governments around nation building agendas as they target new markets of technology consumers. By rendering the poor as consumers, design firms become able to re-imagine linkages between their traditional concerns and a seemingly “untapped” market.  The individuals living at the BoP themselves use depersonalized notions of the consumer, often associated with the middle class, ICTs, and cultures of consumption, as figures of aspiration and part of a process of identity construction. Nation states participate in government assisted PC purchase programs (brokered by IT corporations) under the premise of assisting the BoP, or otherwise excluded citizens. This entails in some cases highlighting the BoP to attract private actors and in other cases blending the consumption needs of the BoP into a larger national consumption agendas. The figure of the consumer is used in ways that at once raise the issue of poor people’s agency and at the same time expands the agency of the myriad institutions serving them  to make claims about progress, and to render particular populations legible (Scott, 1998) in a simplified, yet strategic process. 



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