It’s only 4 billion people

02106-pyramid.jpg  To complete a week of posting on CSR, I thought I’d post a couple of links on Nokia‘s recent activities in India.  Is this an example of companies adhering to the ideals of the classic article on multi-national companies building opportunities from the bottom of the pyramid, that tiny 4 billion of the world with an annual income less than US$1,500.  

It’s a scary prospect for any company to think of as Prahalad and Hart put it, “Doing business with the world’s 4 billion poorest people — two-thirds of the world’s population — will require radical innovations in technology and business models. It will require MNCs to reevaluate price-performance relationships for products and services. It will demand a new level of capital efficiency and new ways of measuring financial success. Companies will be forced to transform their understanding of scale, from a bigger is better ideal to an ideal of highly distributed small-scale operations married to world-scale capabilities.”

Here’s what BusinessWeek say this week about Nokia’s attempt to grow customers amongst the “aspiring poor” of India and Kenya.

In Public Relations we talk alot about ‘channels’ – what’s the best way to reach and communicate your message with your target audience.  Considering that most of this bottom tier of the pyramid live in rural villages, or urban slums and shantytowns,  and make up 40 to 60 percent of all economic activity in developing countries, I think inclusive capitalism (or tenants of social capitalism, although I confess not to be completely versed on the implications of this theory) is something for MNCs to seriously consider and, following that, the PR industry.

As you know, I dislike the often misleading take on terms like PR 2.0.   
Communications, undoubtedely is evolving, though.  I’m wondering whether Nokia’s innovations will be followed by more companies who take Prahalad and Hart’s argument seriously.  Call it what you like (hopefully not Globalization 2.0, good god, and maybe something along the lines of the “invisible opportunities of Globalization”) but signs are that companies need responsible communication solutions to open real dialogue with this way too long overlooked 4 billion of the world’s population.


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