Bottom of the (Indian) pyramid

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In another treat for World Bankers at headquarters, management guru CK Prahalad gave an engaging lecture yesterday on "Democratizing Commerce". It included many of the same examples we've heard of private sector solutions to development problems, plus some that are new to this blog: Jaipur Foot, ICICI Bank and Narayana Hrudayalaya. He made what I took as a veiled dig at William Easterly when he said:

You cannot solve the problem [of poverty] with highly localized, small-scale experiments. If you can't touch the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, it doesn't matter.

Prahalad spoke at length about the scalability of these solutions and repeatedly emphasized that the examples above reach millions of people. Obviously, these are excellent and exciting stories of how the private sector can engage in profitable activities that enhance the very poor's qualify of life. Yet Prahalad is Indian and studies India, and all of the examples above are drawn from India.

For its population size alone, I'd argue that India is a special case. How do these solutions "scale" in Nicaragua or Laos or Moldova? With deep respect for Prahalad, I'd like to see more examples of bottom of the pyramid solutions in smaller developing countries. Surely we're interested in more than the Indian or Chinese or Brazilian pyramid.

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