LET’S DEMYSTIFY – Marketing at the Bottom Of Pyramid



Impactpreneurs (10)
“The aspiring poor present a prodigious opportunity for the world’s wealthiest companies. But it requires a radical new approach to business strategy” [1]

C.K. Prahalad in his book “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid”  highlighted the economic potential at the BOP, that over 4 billion people represent a huge market, despite their reduced purchasing power. Since then, several articles have been written on the potential market by academics and professionals. Yet, markets of the poor are neglected. Billions of people lie at the BOP.  At the same time, companies are struggling to come up with innovative strategies to market their product – neither capping market share nor making much sales. In order to develop and exploit this fortune at the bottom of the pyramid that Prahalad talked about, it is essential to re-design the conventional business models completely. To market the product at the BOP, a company must adopt innovative practices in

Product Design
icon-1379298_640Mainstream consumer products are not generally suitable at the BOP. The consumers at the BOP do not have the same purchasing power. Products should be appropriate, relevant and easy to use. For instance, P&G’s razor launch in India failed because the company tested the razor with Indian men at MIT, instead of in rural India, where limited access to running water made it a painful and ineffective product as most Indian men sought a safe razor that could be easily rinsed in a bowl of still water. Based on the insight, they introduced a successful product, a low cost razor developed entirely in and for India. [2]

The consumers at the BOP are risk averse, seeking maximum returns on an expense. Buying behaviours no longer deal with wants, rather needs. Sometimes, the consumers might not be aware of the need. To generate demand, marketers must justify the need and often this requires considerable effort into consumer education.. A success story can be pointed out in HUL’s Swasthya Chetna campaign. With this initiative, HUL sought to promote handwashing with soap in rural and urban areas in India. In doing so, Unilever not only helped prevent diseases like diarrhoea[3]  by promoting health and hygiene awareness amongst the poor, but also succeeded in increasing its sales of Lifebuoy.

Channels of distribution
warehouse-485240_640Catering to far-fetched and a diverse set of consumers is difficult since it incurs high logistical costs. But, today, the penetration of Internet and mobile phones are being tapped for innovative retailing models – partnering with local community networks and micro entrepreneurial franchises. For instance, Essmart, an essential technology distributor, leverages technology to maintain an in-store presence. Maintaining an inventory of essential technologies at rural retail stores, they amplify demand via a paper and mobile catalogues and appealing marketing campaigns.

Studies show that BOP consumers are highly brand conscious[4] . Companies at the BOP should look to build brands that are socially and culturally embedded – the differentiators, the positioning all come into play. For instance, rural Consumers generally look for products with multiple uses. Dettol identified this insight and successfully positioned itself as a product that’s used for a multitude of reasons from washing clothes to treating wounds and gargling.

Role of influencers
At the BOP,  brand trust plays a huge part in driving consumer behaviour. Influencers play a key role in this. The “influencer” the person that enjoys considerable influence in the community either due to their social position or educational qualifications, often being the early adopters. A word of mouth marketing from them can trigger a ripple effect. Maruti’s rural initiative – “Mera Sapna Meri Maruti” is one such successful campaign under which Maruti offered discounts to millions of members of Gram Panchayats across India on select Maruti cars.

As mainstream markets saturate, companies should instead consider looking towards the untapped BOP economy – still in its infancy. Due to the sheer volume, economic expansion can be extremely fast and lasting. However,  companies will have to be creative and innovative in their approach to maintain profitability at low costs. Innovation, contemporary business models and an understanding of the psyche of the BOP consumer are the key to success. These consumers are risk averse and value conscious. Companies looking to penetrate the market must come up with innovative strategies in their product design, distribution, demand and branding.




[4] The fortune at the bottom of the pyramid ; CK Prahalad

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