Teaching Innovation Program

IESE Business School, University of Navarra, Spain

The Base of the Pyramid and Sustainable Growth

Team Members:
Johanna Mair
Miguel Angel Rodriguez
Our proposal for TIP focuses on initiatives at the base of the pyramid,which aim at sustainable development and growth. Until recently, the base of the pyramid (BOP) - a term that refers to the some four billion people who are excluded from the market economy and living in poverty in undeveloped regions of the world - has not been targeted by companies as a viable consumer group. In addition, the socioeconomic conditions at the base of the pyramid have restrained the four billion people from proactively seeking entrepreneurial opportunities. This is hardly surprising, given that BOP consumers live on less than four dollars per day on average. Currently, individuals at the BOP are unable to purchase the goods and services developed for and supplied to the consumers of developed countries and cannot rely on the necessary infrastructure to set up their own entrepreneurial endeavors. So far the growth rates and penetration potential of Western and emerging markets has satisfied companies' need for growth. However, the emergence of two phenomena has radically altered this situation: first, the anti-globalization movement, which has become more vocal about the rising inequalities that globalization seems to bring with it; and second, the overall slowdown of the international economy.

In this ailing business landscape initiatives at the base of the pyramid represent an effective means to integrate social development aspects into the agenda of multinationals/established companies and at the same time to tap unlimited possibilities for expansion that the BOP to satisfy companies' quest for growth. Thus, the BOP is emerging as an area with the potential to help meet the compelling economic, social and environmental challenges that a more sustainable world entails.

IESE Business School is well positioned to play a leadership role in BOP research and teaching as we have long-lasting fruitful collaborations with the leading scholar in this field (Stuart Hart), pioneer companies such as Cemex, Philips, Tetra Pak and Unilever, as well as entrepreneurs focusing on these markets.

Our aim is to increase impact beyond the existing successful courses in the MBA program and leverage this know how outside of IESE. In this context we are currently in the process of refining the curriculum in different programs with the aim to broaden the spectrum of audience. In more detail we are:
  1. Developing open enrolment executive programs on Sustainable Strategies/BOP and designing modules on Social Entrepreneurship for company specific programs;
  2. Designing faculty training so that these issues are a natural part of case discussion in any management subject;
  3. Working on how to best include these considerations in our doctoral program (three students are already working on these issues); and
  4. Training faculty and doctoral students outside of IESE, an initiative we are currently discussing with the European Academy of Business in Society.
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