Doing business with the Poor – Opportunity or Dead Duck?

Inventions can not only safe the world – but also lives. In my recent posts, I concentrated on highlighting the impact of businesses on our environement, searching for sustainable concepts to impede its slow destruction. But why don’t we take a look over the rim of a tea cup and address those who live in this world and those who have to suffer the most – the world’s bottom billion.

For a start, take a few minutes and watch this short clip by Julio Moura, CEO of GrupoNueva, so you might comprehend the reasons for the universal fear of such a project:

Julio Moura on Doing Business with the Poor


It took a long time for managers to realize the importance of their company’s presence in emerging countries. Mutual benefit was the motto, and firms adapted quite fast, be it those in the investing countries or those in developing areas. There are a lot of obstacles to overcome (see also the video above) and a long way to go but improvements are in full swing. Following the WBCSD, our world is more & more coalescing, making it a smaller place with easier communication and new and innovative market sectors. This change not only affects the involved companies but rather spills over to every department – thinking across sectors and collaborations between governments and enterprises is hip now.

But how do those benefit which do not have any economy at all?Just imagine some regions in a poor African country, where people support themselves and live from what they grow?


To that end, projects like the exhibition by the “Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum” came into being. The museum displays the work of designers which dedicated themselves to invent practical tools for the billions of people living on less than $2 a day. It is not a world-changing project, but definitely facilitates lives over there and helps people raise their living standards. According to Martin Fisher, Co-Founder and CEO of KickStart International, business models are what put an end to the poverty. Selling human-powered pumps, KickStart tries to help poor farmers to enhance crops and thus raise more money.


Another great project is now pursued by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) which sends out their students in midwinter breaks in order to help people with a lack of clean water or electricity for instance. In workshops, students develop innovations which are supposed to compensate for this lack by creating backpacks for an easy transport of water, pedal-powered grain mills and new ways of producing electricity. An important emphasis is that these products can be assembled with the help of local commodities.

As we can see, a lot of change is going on. People are dedicated to help, the business world is changing in favor of the poor, and let’s be honest, it is not that hard to change our conception and to overcome our “old mindset” as Moura says, is it?

A 20-gallon rolling drum for transporting water

For further research, look here, here, here and here






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