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BoP at ten: evolution and a new lens

Joe Follman (The George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA)

South Asian Journal of Global Business Research

ISSN: 2045-4457

Article publication date: 17 August 2012




The purpose of this paper is to synthesize the first ten years of research on the Bottom (or Base) of the Pyramid (BoP) strategy of providing products and services to billions of the world's poor. Conceptions of BoP have shifted significantly, but the nature and implications of these shifts have not been adequately explored. The paper asks: What is the present conception of BoP, how and why has it evolved since 2002, and what are differences and concordances between first‐ and second‐generation understandings? What would an integrative perspective on BoP include, and how can it be applied?


The paper takes the form of a literature review of peer‐reviewed journal articles and books on BoP.


It is found that ten years of research have rapidly advanced the definition of BoP, from a way for multinational corporations to profit by selling to the poor to how collaborative networks – including local firms and NGOs – engage with the poor to design, produce, distribute, and sell goods and services. An emerging consensus is that successful BoP ventures must use an integrative approach in key areas: understanding distinctions among poverty levels, focusing on BoP need to create customized products and services at low prices, collaboration with local organizations, engagement of BoP populations as producers and not just consumers, and applying a reciprocal shared value concept (Porter and Kramer) to ensure products and services provide real economic and social benefits to both the company and members of the BoP.


The paper's suggested integrative approach reframes the BoP discussion as a meso approach of using effective strategies in complementary ways, as does the application of the shared value framework for BoP initiatives.



Follman, J. (2012), "BoP at ten: evolution and a new lens", South Asian Journal of Global Business Research, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 293-310.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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