BOP Report(Bottom of the Pyramid)

14. What's Next for BOP?

Looking ahead, many questions remain about the future of the BOP space. One key set of uncertainties revolves around the current and evolving geopolitical situation and its impact on the BOP. At the same time, the many dilemmas facing business at the BOP level—the challenges of scaling small economies, high transaction costs, distribution challenges, overcoming cultural and organizational barriers—may prove formidable. Questions have also been raised about how well these experiments are really working in practice and how the BOP will ultimately connect or clash with the citizen sector.

On the other hand, what could be more certain? Indeed, the robust and elegant aspect of this concept is that it is riding on the back of so many deeper driving forces. Many argue that the BOP is already a given, “locked in” as a model for the future; what we don’t know is how many other existing BOP initiatives remain undetected by the Western corporate eye. Can and will BOP ideas emerge from the bottom-up and disrupt existing industry structures and incumbents? More broadly, what is this then signalling in terms of global systemic change and the BOP’s role as an artefact of our times?

Switching to a normative viewpoint, if entering BOP markets is a good idea and strategy for companies, what needs to happen to make this a reality? While some projects can be undertaken by individual actors, like corporations, others will need to happen collaboratively and in concert with broader stakeholders. The resulting division of labour may look quite different from past models. We also need to seek out and evaluate the best practices and models to date and connect the people and organizations that are developing them..

The right hybridisation of conceptual tools and practical techniques will provide some rich opportunities for action research and learning, which will tell us a great deal about the promises and pitfalls of the BOP concept. In the wake of September 11, the timing may be right to start dealing with the above questions. New horizons of hope are needed, and fresh ideas about development must be tested and tried. In a world “where intangible assets like trust and reputation account for an increasing proportion of the market value of companies,” corporate leaders are now thinking hard about their legacies, the vulnerability of their brands, and the long-term viability of their organizational design and metrics.