The Business Venture Approach to Alleviating Poverty: What is the Bottom of the Pyramid Solution and Can It Work?
Billions of people around the world deal with the struggles of poverty every day. Consequently, a number of others have committed themselves to help alleviate poverty. Many various methods are used, and a current consensus on the best method to alleviate poverty is lacking. Generally the methods used or researched exist somewhere on the spectrum between top-down and bottom-up approaches to fighting poverty. This paper analyzes a specific method proposed by C.K. Prahalad known as the Bottom of the Pyramid solution. The premise of the method is that large multinational corporations should utilize the large conglomerate of money that exists amongst poor people \u2014 created due to the sheer number of poor people \u2014 for business ventures. Concurrently, the poor people can benefit from the company's entrance. This method has received acclaim theoretically, but still needs empirical evidence to prove its practicality. This paper compares this approach with other approaches, considers international development data trends, and analyzes case studies of actual attempts that provide insight into the approach's potential for success. The market of poor people at the bottom of the pyramid is extremely segmented which makes it very difficult for large companies to financially prosper. It is even harder to establish mutual benefit between the large corporation and the poor. It has been found that although aspects of the bottom of the pyramid method hold merit, higher potential for alleviating poverty exists when small companies venture into this space rather than large multinational corporations. Small companies can conform to a single community and niche economy to prosper \u2014 a flexibility that large companies lack. Moving forward, analyzing the actual attempts provides the best and only empirical insights; hence, it will be important to consider more approaches into developing economies as they materialize.