We recently noticed this article and think its great information to consider in these economic times.  It also serves to kick off an upcoming short series of posts we're planning on creative business strategies in tough economic times.  Here, in the Harvard Business Review, Navi Radjou shares how Microsoft & Marico are working with the BOP (bottom of the economic pyramid - which is defined as people who live with an annual per capita income of less than $1,500.) to generate new business opportunities and harness the power of innovative entrepreneurs.

Rather than looking at the BOP as just another market to penetrate, Radjou points out the real opportunity, "corporations must stop treating BOP communities merely as markets, and learn to forge innovation network partnerships with them."  Programs like Microsoft's Unlimited Potential Program, which "nurtures and facilitates grassroots Innovation Networks -- made up of local Inventors, Transformers, Brokers, and Financiers -- to co-develop and co-market innovative technology offerings that address the most pressing socioeconomic needs of under served communities" and Marico Innovation Foundation (MIF), with a "charter to galvanize India's innovation capabilities at the very grassroots level", facilitate all types of new opportunities being born.  Here's one example Radjou highlights: "about a farmer who had invented a "robot" that climbs up coconut trees to harvest coconuts. Such an invention is a godsend to the Indian agriculture sector which, plagued by a deepening labor shortage, is facing huge pressure to boost its productivity. So Marico partnered with India's Coconut Development Board and the National Innovation Foundation to transform this prototype into a commercially-viable machine. Marico then tapped its nation-wide logistics network to distribute the machine to its hundreds of coconut oil suppliers, who increased their supply chain efficiencies with the use of the machine."

Click here to read Radjou's full text: How Microsoft and Marico Harness Billions of Innovators - Navi Radjou

For other mind opening ideas around the BOP, check out this talk on www.ted.com by Paul Collier which he entitles: "4 Ways to Improve the Lives of the Bottom Billion".  From 1998 to 2003, Collier was the director of the World Bank’s Development Research Group; he now directs the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford, where he continues to advise policymakers.  This talk is based on his book, "The Bottom Billion".

Wishing you continued success!

Microsoft ISV Team