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Profit at the bottom of the pyramid

David Beach  |  11/14/07 @ 4:53pm

The biggest business opportunities of the 21st century will come from meeting the needs of the world's poor - the 80 percent of world population who live at the bottom of the income pyramid and who have been virtually ignored by corporations in prosperous nations. That was the message of C.K. Prahalad, one of the world's thought leaders in sustainable business, who spoke yeasterday at Case's Weatherhead School of Business. The talk was part of an extraordinary series organized by Case's Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit.

Prahalad's book, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, has turned business strategy upside down. He says, "If we stop thinking of the poor as victims or as a burden and start recognizing them as resilient and creative entrepreneurs and value-conscious consumers, a whole new world of opportunity will open up."

To participate in these new markets, however, Western companies will have to forget a lot of what they know and become radically innovative - delivering products with far better functionality, much lower cost, and much less environmental impact. Leapfrog technologies - from how to clean without water to cook with little energy - will be required.

How can businesses in Northeast Ohio profit by meeting the need for sustainable development around the world?

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