Doing good and doing business at the bottom of the pyramid

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There is an ongoing debate among scholars regarding the existence of a fortune at the bottom of the income pyramid. While some scholars argue that there is a profitable market at the pyramid base, others refute this proposition, arguing that targeting poor people as customers could lead to unethical business practices and further their exploitation. With the aid of mini cases, this article explains that there is indeed a fortune to be made at the base of the pyramid but that good fortune can be created for both corporations and poor people if the population at the bottom of the pyramid is treated as suppliers, producers, co-owners, and/or employees rather than as mere consumers. However, in terms of consumers, there is a market for firms at the base of the pyramid through which they can earn profits and simultaneously help eradicate poverty, mainly by lowering the cost structure for poor people. In other words, firms that can reduce poverty and provide cost-effective utilitarian goods and services to poor people have more to gain from such individuals than those firms that provide more luxurious goods and services or offer goods with mere aesthetic or emotional value. With the help of mini cases, this article explains four measures firms can use to create fortunes for themselves as well as for poor customers by avoiding affordability and adaptability traps.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)591-599
Number of pages9
JournalBusiness Horizons
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Marketing


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