Base of the Pyramid (BoP)

Interest in the "base (or bottom) of the pyramid" was catalyzed by a paper written by two University of Michigan professors in 2002. In "The fortune at the bottom of the pyramid"1, C.K. Prahalad and Stuart Hart highlight the untapped market potential of the four billion people at the base of the economic pyramid. In this article, the global population is divided into three segments, based on purchasing power parity (PPP). BoP customers are defined as those with a PPP of less than $1,500 per year.

In the past several years, an increasing number of multinational corporations (MNCs) have recognized this opportunity and are making commitments to launch ventures in BoP markets. Well known examples include, CEMEX, Coca-Cola, Danone, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, Procter & Gamble, S.C. Johnson, Tetra Pak, and Unilever.

While MNC exploration of low income markets is one well-publicized "BoP strategy," several other players and approaches have also emerged. It is apparent that small- and medium-scale enterprises will play an important role in this space, and a number of development agencies have created programs to facilitate BoP-oriented SME development. CARE Canada, for example, has launched CARE Enterprise Partners, a program that looks to help bridge the gap between entrepreneurs in the informal sector and larger businesses operating in the formal sector. Additionally, as ITC in India, DuPont in Latin America, and VegPro in Africa have discovered, the BoP is also a producer of high quality goods and services that can meet the needs of markets at both top of the pyramid and BoP markets.

  • 1. Prahalad, C. K., & Hart, S. L. 2002. The fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. Strategy+ Business, 26(First Quarter): 2-14. Stuart Hart is now at Cornell University.