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Right now the number of people living on $2 a day or less is more than the entire population of the world in 1950. These 2.7 billion people are not just the world’s greatest challenge—they represent an extraordinary market opportunity. By learning how to serve them ethically and effectively, businesses can earn handsome profits while helping to solve one of the world’s mos Right now the number of people living on $2 a day or less is more than the entire population of the world in 1950. These 2.7 billion people are not just the world’s greatest challenge—they represent an extraordinary market opportunity. By learning how to serve them ethically and effectively, businesses can earn handsome profits while helping to solve one of the world’s most intractable problems. The key is what Paul Polak and Mal Warwick call Zero-Based Design: starting from scratch to create innovative products and services tailored for the very poor, armed with a thorough understanding of what they really want and need and driven by what they call “the ruthless pursuit of affordability.”Polak has been doing this work for years, and Warwick has extensive experience in both business and philanthropy. Together, they show how their design principles and vision can enable unapologetic capitalists to supply the very poor with clean drinking water, electricity, irrigation, housing, education, healthcare, and other necessities at a fraction of the usual cost and at profit margins attractive to investors. Promising governmental and philanthropic efforts to end poverty have not reached scale because they lack the incentives of the market to attract massive resources. This book opens an extraordinary opportunity for nimble entrepreneurs, investors, and corporate executives that will result not only in vibrant, growing businesses but also a better life for the world’s poorest people.


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Right now the number of people living on $2 a day or less is more than the entire population of the world in 1950. These 2.7 billion people are not just the world’s greatest challenge—they represent an extraordinary market opportunity. By learning how to serve them ethically and effectively, businesses can earn handsome profits while helping to solve one of the world’s mos Right now the number of people living on $2 a day or less is more than the entire population of the world in 1950. These 2.7 billion people are not just the world’s greatest challenge—they represent an extraordinary market opportunity. By learning how to serve them ethically and effectively, businesses can earn handsome profits while helping to solve one of the world’s most intractable problems. The key is what Paul Polak and Mal Warwick call Zero-Based Design: starting from scratch to create innovative products and services tailored for the very poor, armed with a thorough understanding of what they really want and need and driven by what they call “the ruthless pursuit of affordability.”Polak has been doing this work for years, and Warwick has extensive experience in both business and philanthropy. Together, they show how their design principles and vision can enable unapologetic capitalists to supply the very poor with clean drinking water, electricity, irrigation, housing, education, healthcare, and other necessities at a fraction of the usual cost and at profit margins attractive to investors. Promising governmental and philanthropic efforts to end poverty have not reached scale because they lack the incentives of the market to attract massive resources. This book opens an extraordinary opportunity for nimble entrepreneurs, investors, and corporate executives that will result not only in vibrant, growing businesses but also a better life for the world’s poorest people.

30 review for The Business Solution to Poverty: Designing Products and Services for Three Billion New Customers

  1. 5 out of 5

    John II

    This is a book that cries out to those of all ages who want meaning and purpose in their life. The goal is simple—bring out of poverty those 2.7 billion people who live on $2 or less per day. As the authors graphically and specifically point out—this is far from easy. But, think about it, what in life of great importance is easily accomplished? The book itself points out some of its potential readers: entrepreneurs or investors seeking practical ways to profit from new enterprises in emerging mar This is a book that cries out to those of all ages who want meaning and purpose in their life. The goal is simple—bring out of poverty those 2.7 billion people who live on $2 or less per day. As the authors graphically and specifically point out—this is far from easy. But, think about it, what in life of great importance is easily accomplished? The book itself points out some of its potential readers: entrepreneurs or investors seeking practical ways to profit from new enterprises in emerging markets, executives at major global corporations who want to address the potential customers at the bottom of the pyramid, development practitioners in government, nonprofits, the United Nations or other such organization, philanthropists and investors who want to challenge world poverty, and concerned world citizens everywhere. I agree heartedly with one of the first statements by the authors, “…we believe that the greatest potential for reducing poverty in today’s global environment lies in the power of business.” These 2.7 billion people “…constitute an enormous untapped market.” Estimates are that these people have collective purchasing power of $5 trillion and that as they move out of poverty that figure will double and triple. These poverty stricken people will be tomorrow’s middle class; and the authors state categorically, “Approaching the problem from the top down has almost never worked…” I have written below a long review with lots of direct quotes because I have gotten permission to do so and because the book is so well written and simply worded that paraphrasing didn’t seem necessary or appropriate. For those who want to get a summary of the book/book review, here are the book’s “Takeaways,” with a bit of commentary from me. 1. “We believe there is one sure way, and only one way, to foster genuine social change on a large scale among the world’s poverty-stricken billions—by harnessing the power of business to the task.” I fervently agree. 2. “Conventional approaches to end poverty have largely failed, and as Einstein taught us, to continue believing they’ll succeed would be madness.” I agree with their point that conventional approaches have largely failed. But I must say I disagree with Albert Einstein. Being persistent in repeating the same approach to a human problem oftentimes is the only way to eventually succeed. 3. “The most obvious, direct, and effective way to combat poverty is to help poor people earn more money.” This may sound simplistic, but earning money can lead to sustainability whereas money through government or charity leads to low self-esteem and is very uncertain in the long term. 4. “Although a handful of development initiatives have succeeded in improving the livelihoods of as many as 20 million poor people, none has yet reached significant scale.” This is a major and overriding point in this book. 5. “Poor people have to invest their own time and money to move out of poverty.” Giveaways don’t work in the long term, for sure. 6. “The Don’t Bother Trilogy: If you don’t understand the problem you’ve set out to solve from your customers’ perspective, if your product or service won’t dramatically increase their income, and if you can’t sell 100 million of them, don’t bother.” Scale is critical for global success. 7. “To meet the biggest challenge in development—scale—your enterprise must aim to transform the lives of 5 million customers during the first 5 years and 100 million during the first 10.” I like the idea of having definite large-scale goals. 8. “Zero-based design requires that you begin from scratch, without preconceptions or existing models to guide you, beginning with your goal in mind—a global enterprise that will attract at least 100 million customers and $10 billion in annual sales within a decade, operating in a way that’s calculated to transform the lives of all your customers.” 9. “In designing products that will open up new markets among the world’s poor, ruthless affordability is the single most important objective.” This is a huge challenge with a simple goal, but very hard to do. However, since we are in the Innovation Age, I believe that we can do it. 10. “Design for extreme affordability rarely comes easily. Making anything both workable and cheap may take years of careful, incremental adaptation and revision.” 11. “Designing a branding and marketing strategy and a last-mile supply chain that will put your product or service in the hands of millions of customers is three-quarters of the design challenge.” This is a big problem in rural areas in particular. 12. “To achieve true scale, pick a problem that challenges the lives of a billion people.” This avoids a focus that is too small to defeat world poverty. 13. “The product or service you plan to commercialize must be culturally independent.” This allows scale country to country. The economics of scale is one of the key factors that allowed Henry Ford to lower the price of automobiles to make them affordable for average people. Volume of production will be a key to allowing this bottom pyramid to be able to afford the products envisioned by this book. 14. “A brilliant rich-country executive—or even an upper-class executive from the Global South—may be totally out of his or her element working with poor people.” To major corporations that I hope will heed this call, this may be a crucial consideration. 15. “Manufacturing at scale is possible through distributed (decentralized) production facilities only if parts or modules are precisely machined to near-zero tolerances and available space and the sequence of steps on the assembly line has been optimized.” I encourage you to read the whole book, including the case studies which I did not review, to comprehend this “Takeaway.” 16. “One of the greatest impediments to achieving scale is the high cost of delivering products and services, not just the ‘last mile,’ but the last 500 feet.” This is particularly true in rural areas where so many of those living on $2 or less per day reside. 17. “Decentralization is one of the keys to building a large, transnational business capable of making headway against global poverty while turning a generous profit.” Remember that profits are necessary to create sustainability and scale. 18. “A business that practices stakeholder-centered management can maximize the chances that it will not just survive but flourish over the long term.” I agree completely. 19. “Striving for the lowest possible environmental impact is smart business.” I believe climate change is one of the top problems of our planet and I’m certainly not the only one who has that view. 20. “To thrive over the long term, a business must optimize its most valuable asset—its people and the intellectual property they produce—by ensuring that they are well paid, treated with respect, engaged in building their own careers, and given ample opportunities to find meaning and balance in their jobs.” All the people in and out of our businesses globally should be treated with dignity, respect, and kindness. *** Paul Polak, one of this book’s authors, wrote, Out of Poverty. In it he explained how a market-driven nonprofit organization he founded in 1981, “…had lifted 17 million rural people into the middle class by rigorously applying practices they developed in the field in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Somalia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and new agricultural marketing practices—were revolutionary because they were market-driven and designed for and with $1-a-day farmers, and, not incidentally because they worked.” There are approximately one billion people still living on $1 or less per day. The authors spell it quite plainly, “…our primary concern in this book: a desire to eradicate poverty.” I must explain that they are writing about dire poverty, $2 or less per day, not the comparative type of poverty which lingers in developed nations. The authors explain, “…traditionally, capitalist approaches have exploited poor people and done irreparable harm to the environment. But what we advocate is different: a way to achieve results on a global scale and solve your fundraising challenge without victimizing poor people or despoiling the environment.” I’m not sure I would agree with the “exploit” statement, but I wholeheartedly agree with this book’s approach and premise of using business techniques to conquer world poverty. The authors make a wonderful point—that this poverty involves “…a horrendous waste of human talent. How many scientists, physicians, teachers, business innovators, gifted artists, and brilliant community leaders might emerge from the bottom billions if they were freed of the shackles of poverty?” This poverty causes great environmental damage, which claims the most damage to the poor themselves as they “…over-farm already poor soils, cut down trees for fuel, use local fuels for cooking and heating, and compete for fast-shrinking supplies of water. Lack of education, high infant mortality, and the need for more hands to increase family income lead to overpopulation, which adds a multiplier effect to the existing pressure that humanity exerts on our dwindling resource base…[with] practically all the projected increase in the world’s population between now and 2050…among people who live on $2 a day or less in the world’s poorest countries.” There is a huge market potential with the emerging economies of the Global South making up approximately $12 trillion or eighteen percent of the globe’s total economic output. According to the authors, “Global South” transcends geography and “…refers to the generally less-developed, low-income countries typically classified as ‘developing nations,’ ‘underdeveloped countries,’ and ‘emerging nations—despite the fact that most of India, for example, lies north of the Equator, and Australia and New Zealand, which are by no means underdeveloped, lie far to the south of the line.” Increasingly, global businesses are coming to realize that their opportunities in developed countries are limited and that it is a matter of corporate growth to seek to serve “…the New Frontier.” I thoroughly agree with the authors as they wrote, “In business, life is change. No well-managed corporation with global aspirations can afford to overlook new market opportunities.” To understand the location of the world’s poorest people, the authors explain that most are concentrated in four areas across the globe: the Indian subcontinent (including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka)—900 million; Southeast Asia (Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines)—700 million; Sub-Saharan Africa (the dozens of nations that lie south of the Arabic-speaking countries on the Mediterranean coast)—roughly 500 million; and China—perhaps 300 million. These four areas encompass about 2.4 billion with another 300 million spread around the world. The authors sum up their premise, “The remedy we propose is to tap the mainstream capital markets to fund large-scale, global enterprises that address the basic needs of these 2.7 billion people: needs for clean water, renewable energy, affordable housing, accessible health care and education, and, above all, jobs.” Their approach is founding businesses with a ten year goal of achieving a customer base of 100 million with revenues of $10 billion or more per year profitably enough “…to attract both indigenous and international commercial investors while minimizing its environmental impact to the greatest extent possible.” *** The authors have a definite route that they call zero-based design. The first element of this formula is to listen to the poor people, not through pity, but as customers. Think like Steve Jobs and create markets. Scale is an essential component of this plan. That is, “Design for scale from the very beginning as a central focus of the enterprise, with a view toward reaching not just thousands or even millions of poor people but hundreds of millions.” “Ruthless affordability” requires designing products and processes “…not just 30 to 50 percent less than First World prices but often an order of magnitude less, or 90 percent.” Another crucial key is “private capital.” It is important to reach generous margins of profit “…which will play a central role in expanding any venture—drawing from a pool of trillions of dollars in private capital rather than the millions typically available for philanthropic; or government-sponsored programs.” This is a vital point and the key that’s missing in other approaches. The next element is “last-mile distribution.” Because so many of these potential customers are in isolated rural areas, it is not only critical to plan for the last mile, but often the “last 500 feet.” The authors’ list “aspirational branding” as the next element. This one surprised me. We are used to sophisticated branding in the developed world. But the authors explain this is perhaps even more important with those in the bottom of the pyramid. The final element is “Jugaad innovation.” The term “Jugaad” is rooted in Hindu and refers to a creative or innovative idea that provides a quick, alternative way of solving or fixing a problem. This involves working with what you have, and might even be called ingenuity. Extensive testing and development are crucial. *** Both social goals and profitability are important, “For example, if an enterprise adopts the mission of selling crop insurance to large numbers of poor farmers at an attractive price, embeds that mission into its DNA, and never wavers from it, transformative social impact is inevitable. The real challenge is earning attractive profits while doing it.” The authors refer to stakeholder-centered management which means that the business addresses the needs of customers, employees, the local communities, the environment and the owners. Part One Only Business Can End Poverty I agree quite fervently that only business can end poverty, not only in the Global South, which is the subject of this book, but that premise applies globally. The authors describe examples of poor rural people; reading this is a must if you intend to get a serious idea of their life. There are a few general characteristics—“The poor just get by,” very much in a survival mode, “The poor receive little news. Most of the information poor people receive comes by word of mouth from families, neighbors, and friends, and occasionally by radio, filtered through a village culture little influenced by national and global news.” “The poor rarely travel.” They are isolated and are “…rarely aware of the new ideas and new opportunities that surface so frequently in today’s fast-changing world.” “The poor have few choices.” The modern world is out of reach. Instead “…one out of five of their infants die of preventable illness…They’re vulnerable to whatever else comes along in the village where they live, whether it’s inferior health care, substandard food, dangerous transportation, or illegal activities by the police or village officials.” “The poor live with misfortune never far away.” Things from uncertain rainfall to children’s bouts of severe diarrhea surround the poor. It’s not just because income is limited, but “…because what income they receive is irregular and unpredictable.” The book provides some serious wisdom about this poverty in the chapter, “What is Poverty?” “It’s shocking. After the world’s rich nations invested more than $2.3 trillion over the past 60 years to end global poverty, billions of our fellow humans remain desperately poor…Top-down development programs administered by governments, international agencies, foundations, or big NGO, [Nonprofit Government Organizations] rarely work because they’re so vulnerable to government corruption, bureaucratic inaction, the distance between the planners and the supposed beneficiaries, and both distrust and a lack of interest on the part of people who live at the grass roots.” “Giveaways breed dependence and self-doubt instead of change. Philanthropy isn’t the answer, either. Despite the severely limited funds available, they’re squandered on a great diversity of uncoordinated, small-scale efforts to address every problem under the sun. We can’t donate our way out of poverty. Even Bill Gates, with $70 billion at his disposal, has referred to his wealth as a drop in the bucket in our $70 trillion global economy.” It is estimated that 925 million people go to bed hungry at night globally. “Poor people as we have come to know them in the Global South typically experience un- or underemployment; encounter barriers to opportunity based on their gender, race, ethnicity, or religion; lack some or all of the basic human needs, including clean water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing, and shelter; and all too often, lose hope and lack even the most basic self-esteem.” Surely we can do something about this. The light at the end of the tunnel is, in my opinion, this book, and its application with determination and persistence. *** The next chapter is, “What Can Government and Philanthropy Do?” Since World War II global GDP went from $4 trillion to $70 trillion in 2012. The authors explain that the main improvements have been in public health and primary education. And it is true that the percentage of the planet’s people living below subsistence level has decreased from about a half to thirty-eight percent. But in absolute numbers of desperately poor people, there are more today (2.7 billion), than sixty years ago (2.6 billion). United Nations aid (about $5 billion in 2012), non-military U.S. aid and other aid has had significant effect in particular places, but “their net effect on the incidence of global poverty is nil.” The author’s Takeaway is “The most obvious, direct, and effective way to combat poverty is to enable poor people to earn more money.” “Building infrastructure—the World Bank’s longtime favorite mission—allows top government officials to award construction contracts to their families, friends, and supporters, often with kickbacks in return. Unfortunately, massive foreign aid is often diverted to armies and police forces to preserve the power and hidden bank accounts of ruling elites, to the disadvantage of the country’s poor people.” There are more than five million citizen-based organizations globally which attempt to fight poverty. While these efforts are earnest, admirable and effective, these organizations “…tend to be scattershot and are almost always on a small scale. Scale is the overarching issue for the citizen sector.” From time to time these groups develop effective ideas such as one which CARE introduced, a micro savings and loan program “…based on savings rather than debt and is managed by members of the community rather than professionals…These ‘village savings and loans’…now serve some six million people in 58 countries.” Worldwide, microcredit is now considered “…one of the most favored methods undertaken to fight poverty.” However, it appears that many in the “$70 billion microcredit industry, practice fraud, demand usurious interest rates (sometimes even greater than those of moneylenders), and in at least two celebrated cases have made huge fortunes for their investors at the expense of their clients. In some countries, the results have been tragic: poor people overloaded with debt and nothing to show for it—and even, in one extreme case in India, a wave of dozens of suicides brought on by aggressive debt collectors.” Even in Bangladesh—“home of the microcredit movement and the country where it has expanded the most”—the country has gone down on a UN measure of poverty from 136th in 1991 to 146th twenty years

  2. 4 out of 5

    Zahedul

    Paul Polak, founder of iDE, a renowned INGO, shares his philosophy for alleviating poverty. The book champions the market development approach, as opposed to charitable and philanthropic initiatives. Based on his wealth of experience implementing myriad initiatives over the last 25 years, Paul dissects the current status quo and way forward for increasing living standards of people at the BOP segment. His main proposition for solving development challenges is to adopt business solutions, which a Paul Polak, founder of iDE, a renowned INGO, shares his philosophy for alleviating poverty. The book champions the market development approach, as opposed to charitable and philanthropic initiatives. Based on his wealth of experience implementing myriad initiatives over the last 25 years, Paul dissects the current status quo and way forward for increasing living standards of people at the BOP segment. His main proposition for solving development challenges is to adopt business solutions, which are profitable, sustainable, scalable, replicable and adhering to the ‘triple bottom line’. He advocates the concept of zero design, whereby, no assumptions are made beforehand while designing a business model. A customer feedback loop plays an integral role in designing the desired solution. He strongly believes in a hands-off approach where private sector plays a dominant role, encompassing BOP population in different parts of the value chain. The book is littered with interesting cases, mostly those implemented by iDE. Bangladesh features prominently in the book with a number of cases studies. Overall, an interesting read for social entrepreneurs and development consultants/ practitioners. At times, the book got a bit repetitive with some concepts regurgitated again and again.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Richard Thompson

    I have always liked the idea of doing good and making money at the same time. And I have also always liked the philosophy of the old saw about teaching the man to fish instead of giving him a fish, so I found the basic idea of this book very appealing. And I liked the way that the author presented concrete steps for thinking about and pursuing business ideas for ethical money making products that can be sold to the very poor to help improve their lives. I think that there are many possible pitfa I have always liked the idea of doing good and making money at the same time. And I have also always liked the philosophy of the old saw about teaching the man to fish instead of giving him a fish, so I found the basic idea of this book very appealing. And I liked the way that the author presented concrete steps for thinking about and pursuing business ideas for ethical money making products that can be sold to the very poor to help improve their lives. I think that there are many possible pitfalls in the approach that is outlined here, mainly because there is a strong tendency of capitalism to be exploitative, so I'm not clear if we can count on capitalistic businesses to be good citizens in the long run. If a product makes money, it will be hard for a company to abandon it, even if it turns out to be harmful, and a product that starts out to be good may evolve into something less good or even harmful over time because people driven by a need for profits may cut corners or push the product into new markets where it ceases to be beneficial or do other things to protect or maintain their margains that turn their original noble aims upside down. So I'm not so sure that Mr Polak has found the solution to poverty as the title promises, but I do think that he has some very good ideas and that he is doing a good thing in encouraging others to jump onto his bandwagon. If I were just starting my career, I would be very drawn to the idea of working for a company that is trying to make the world a better place. So even if this isn't the whole solution and even if it won't always work in every situation and even if some well intentioned efforts inspired by this program turn out to do more harm than good, I still think that Mr. Polak has some good ideas and that the ideas that he suggests could be an important part of a bigger program for fighting poverty.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    How do you improve the lives of poor people? Enable them to earn more money through innovative products that they can use to be more productive. The Business Solution to Poverty proposes just that: create products and businesses to alleviate poverty. I thought the book had a lot of good ideas and taught me valuable perspectives. How do you affect the lives of 100 million people? The authors challenge the reader to think on a large scale. A charity can improve the lives of 100, 10,000, or even 1,0 How do you improve the lives of poor people? Enable them to earn more money through innovative products that they can use to be more productive. The Business Solution to Poverty proposes just that: create products and businesses to alleviate poverty. I thought the book had a lot of good ideas and taught me valuable perspectives. How do you affect the lives of 100 million people? The authors challenge the reader to think on a large scale. A charity can improve the lives of 100, 10,000, or even 1,000,000 people. These improvements should not be minimized. They are valuable, but scaling even further forces the reader to think about the amount of charity money needed. Maybe it's more scalable and sustainable to think like a business instead of a charity. People vote on good solutions with their hard-earned money. The market system may be the best way to get proper feedback to develop solutions. I don't know if this answer is correct, but it is thought-provoking. The authors use their own ventures to support their hypotheses. I think the argument would be more convincing if used less self-promotion and mentioned efforts by other businesses. I'd be excited to learn if there were any success stories for this approach since the book was published.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Conrad

    An ambitious and practical business book. The author is very knowledgeable.

  6. 5 out of 5

    K Shah

    Listened to the audio book over a couple long roads trips. Overall this is a very ambitious book with a clear thesis: the current solutions to poverty (government aid, non-profits, micro-finance, etc) are not working. Instead of seeing the poor at helpless we need to see them as potential customers. The authors argue that market solutions are the only way to truly address poverty. This view aligns closely to my belief and because of this I was excited to read the book. Overall I think this book d Listened to the audio book over a couple long roads trips. Overall this is a very ambitious book with a clear thesis: the current solutions to poverty (government aid, non-profits, micro-finance, etc) are not working. Instead of seeing the poor at helpless we need to see them as potential customers. The authors argue that market solutions are the only way to truly address poverty. This view aligns closely to my belief and because of this I was excited to read the book. Overall I think this book did a really good job describing the current situation - how poor people live and why they are poor and the progress (or lack thereof of current methods). I found the profiles of people in a village in Orissa, India particularly insightful. Then the book presents its thesis of how to design products and services that address the needs of poor people. It proposes zero-based design in which you truly understand how the poor live and design products to address their situation. All of this makes sense. However I have three major issues with how it was presented: 1. The authors encourage readers to think big and design products that can be marketed to hundreds of millions of people. But they also warn that solutions need to meet the local needs. I really struggled with this contridiction. In practice I think it is very rare to have a mass market solution that addresses local needs. To me the authors did not really address this contridiction and actually de-emphasized this point. 2. The authors basically tell readers not to pursue any idea that wasn't scalable to 100 million people. That is ridiculous. There are local solutions that can really help people out of poverty and be profitable. To say that these ideas aren't worth pursuing is hard to swallow. 3. The book didn't really discuss the political challenges of doing business in developing countries. At the end of the book they listed a few other things to think about (corruption, regulations, etc) but these were merely an afterthought.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    The basic premiss of the book is 1. Identify solutions by interviewing and living among the target audience. Definitely sound advice as people come up with lots of solutions to poverty that just don't work due to lack of first hand experience. 2. Look for money making solutions that will help at least 3 billion people. The author stressed this over and over trying to convince you it isn't worth your time unless it has huge potential. Their motivation is of course to encourage us to think big, but The basic premiss of the book is 1. Identify solutions by interviewing and living among the target audience. Definitely sound advice as people come up with lots of solutions to poverty that just don't work due to lack of first hand experience. 2. Look for money making solutions that will help at least 3 billion people. The author stressed this over and over trying to convince you it isn't worth your time unless it has huge potential. Their motivation is of course to encourage us to think big, but I'm not so sure on this. Solutions to poverty are rarely universal to large areas due to large variations in culture and natural resources. They also try to convince you that helping 10s of millions of people isn't worth your time, not sure I agree with this idea either. While helping 50 million people wouldn't solve global poverty it sure would make me feel good about helping that many people. 3. Look to make your idea as cheap as possible (labor and raw materials). A manufacturing technique in one area may not be the cheapest in another. 4. Put together a solid marketing campaign and look for local help. Effective marketing techniques will vary dramatically from location to location. 5. Plan from the beginning on how to grow, don't just expect it to happen. Have plans to grow as fast as possible. While there are some great common sense advice, I just wasn't very inspired by the book, so only 3 stars.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bill Pritchard

    The Business Solution to Poverty is a challenging book - especially if one has given over his soul to working with a Non-Governmental Agency (Rotary) to do good in the world. Mr. Polak and Mr. Warwick, from their personal experience points to the glaring fact that no matter the "good deeds" done in the name of charity and help, there are 2.7 billion people that are living on less than $2 a day. Promising governmental and philanthropic efforts to end this poverty have not reached scale because th The Business Solution to Poverty is a challenging book - especially if one has given over his soul to working with a Non-Governmental Agency (Rotary) to do good in the world. Mr. Polak and Mr. Warwick, from their personal experience points to the glaring fact that no matter the "good deeds" done in the name of charity and help, there are 2.7 billion people that are living on less than $2 a day. Promising governmental and philanthropic efforts to end this poverty have not reached scale because they often lack the incentives of the market to attract massive resources. This book, thru 20 takeaways, introduced zero-based design - and an effort to create innovative products and services that are actually tailored for the very poor - offering the chance for them to raise their standard of living 2 or 3 fold. Again, it is challenging. Can business opportunity - the chance to earn handsome profits while helping solve some of the worlds most intractable problems, be the answer? Not sure... but it certainly makes for some interesting thoughts and insight. Recommended for those who spend a quality portion of one's life trying to make the world a better place for the least among it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cyndie Courtney

    What if profitability that can be mass-reproduced is the ultimate test of something's long-term sustainability as a method for helping the poorest people in the world? This book has a somewhat challenging and controversial premise. The premise that it is only people who make something valuable enough and cost-effective enough that it can be sold effectively to the poor (and in turn will make a 300% return on investment for them) have really come to truly understand their problem in the first pla What if profitability that can be mass-reproduced is the ultimate test of something's long-term sustainability as a method for helping the poorest people in the world? This book has a somewhat challenging and controversial premise. The premise that it is only people who make something valuable enough and cost-effective enough that it can be sold effectively to the poor (and in turn will make a 300% return on investment for them) have really come to truly understand their problem in the first place. The process of creating that business model can still be very long, arduous, expensive, and challenging, but ultimately worth it. Charity comes and charity goes but if the business model is good enough that locals start to compete with the offered product, then there is really a chance for long term change that can lift millions of people out of poverty even if the original company that brought the innovation leaves. Well written, to the point, with interesting accompanying examples. Challenge the way you think about ways to helping the developing world.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lexington

    I actually was considering buying Out of Poverty on kindle. I wanted to reread it since it was a textbook that I enjoyed in college, but I ended up buying this instead because it was newer and I hadn't read it yet. It was very similar to Out of Poverty. I liked all of the examples, but I felt like there was too much concentration on the treadle pump. I also felt like much information was repeated, and some information from Out of Poverty was also reiterated in this book. It was interesting. I read I actually was considering buying Out of Poverty on kindle. I wanted to reread it since it was a textbook that I enjoyed in college, but I ended up buying this instead because it was newer and I hadn't read it yet. It was very similar to Out of Poverty. I liked all of the examples, but I felt like there was too much concentration on the treadle pump. I also felt like much information was repeated, and some information from Out of Poverty was also reiterated in this book. It was interesting. I read the whole thing. I thought that the quick facts that they gathered really helped to shape my perspective on the issues of global poverty. But having read Out of Poverty, I'm not sure that I learned a lot of new information from this book, but I did appreciate reading about the stories of others who have found difficulties in alleviating the poverty in third world countries. I also liked the business idea suggestions.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Don

    Poverty of opportunities, myth of overpopulation, dow left with GE subsidies, trickle up better than trickle down, zero based design, mass product vs smaller scale, diss micros, too caught up in scaling vs individual innovation, test with bacteria growth sold system water treatment, people want to buy carbon credits to reduce warming, charcoal promotion, stakeholder centered, biofuel over oil gas, solar with carbon credits, marketing is ¾ of challenge. dis micro loans vs sometimes it works, dis Poverty of opportunities, myth of overpopulation, dow left with GE subsidies, trickle up better than trickle down, zero based design, mass product vs smaller scale, diss micros, too caught up in scaling vs individual innovation, test with bacteria growth sold system water treatment, people want to buy carbon credits to reduce warming, charcoal promotion, stakeholder centered, biofuel over oil gas, solar with carbon credits, marketing is ¾ of challenge. dis micro loans vs sometimes it works, dis religion vs sometimes it helps, corrupt governments, invest own time and money to move out, success statistics of improving economies and effect of government freedom and liberty thereto via example of 800m China out of poverty per cato institute, global warming talk.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jared

    There's something seriously wrong with this book. The audience they intend to address the technicality they stuff into the pages is off-putting. Second, you have to be Jesus to come up with such selfless entrepreneurial idea that aims to reach billions. The tone in their work also implicitly discounts those who help the poor and change lives at a very small scale. These people also matter! Fighting poverty is a patient task- one person at a time, one family at a time... They're just not realisti There's something seriously wrong with this book. The audience they intend to address the technicality they stuff into the pages is off-putting. Second, you have to be Jesus to come up with such selfless entrepreneurial idea that aims to reach billions. The tone in their work also implicitly discounts those who help the poor and change lives at a very small scale. These people also matter! Fighting poverty is a patient task- one person at a time, one family at a time... They're just not realistic, and what they say won't work for Africa. Emerging entrepreneurs will never think of social impact primarily. Disappointed.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jose Papo

    Interesting book with nice ideas about how to build products and services to customers with very low income. Liked a lot the eight principles of Zero-based Design. You can find an overview of the eight keys of Zero-based Design here: http://www.corporateecoforum.com/zero... Interesting book with nice ideas about how to build products and services to customers with very low income. Liked a lot the eight principles of Zero-based Design. You can find an overview of the eight keys of Zero-based Design here: http://www.corporateecoforum.com/zero...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michael Tarpinian

    Call my gosh what was the point? Meant for perhaps 1000 people in the country or the world. Why is it sitting in the Palatine library? Obscure subject matterabout starting a business that can serve at least 100 million people making two dollars a day or less.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Arun Gurung

    Interesting one

  16. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Smith

    Has several strong points and important ideas. It comes with a very aggressive tone. It would be valuable to learn how the development community responds to the arguments in this book or doesn't. Has several strong points and important ideas. It comes with a very aggressive tone. It would be valuable to learn how the development community responds to the arguments in this book or doesn't.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alice Korngold

    Excellent and important!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Now I just need to figure out a business idea that solves a problem in developing-world communities!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Pj Briggs

    A wonderful challenge to anyone trying to have an impact

  20. 4 out of 5

    Karel Baloun

    Solid ideas and case studies. Engaging writing style, absolutely correct conclusions. I just ended wishing for more depth and breadths

  21. 5 out of 5

    Piers

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ujjawal Chauhan

  23. 4 out of 5

    Deanna

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rahul

  25. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ajay

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Moore

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kurt Bostelaar

  29. 4 out of 5

    Trey Gillette

  30. 4 out of 5

    Martina

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