16 april 2005
Dutch multinationals lured into the market of four billion poor people
Stuart Hart's comment came after having breakfast with some twenty-five Dutch CEOs, and lecturing for forty-five 'young potentials', employees of DSM, ABN AMRO Bank and Heineken. His purpose was "to unleash their power to innovate business strategies in order to explore the fortune at the base of the pyramid", as he told P+. Not only prominent Dutch multinationals attended his seminars on April 14 at the ABN AMRO headquarters in Amsterdam, so did the Dutch minister for Development Cooperation, Agnes van Ardenne, and Princess Màxima. The minister joined the CEO-breakfast, because, as she stated: "The base of the pyramid is at the top of my priority list. My results-based development policies target the poor and disenfranchised, especially in Africa." She is a strong advocate for involvement of the business community in poverty alleviation. Princess Màxima's (low profile) joining the seminar for the young potentials had to do with her being one of the advisors for the UN International Year of Micro-Credit. And micro-finance is one of the vital conditions for poor people to pull themselves out of poverty.
Stuart Hart, professor Strategic Management at Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management, and author on a new book 'Capitalism at the crossroads'
, met a lot of serious questioning during his last, and public, seminar. What kind of skills do companies need to effectively explore the needs and problems of the billions of poor people? What role do multilateral organisations, non-governmental organisations and governments play in this 'Base of the Pyramid'-business model? What does it mean for business-to-business-companies who have no direct consumers among the poor? And how do we prevent the small and medium enterprises to be washed away when multinationals enter the local markets?
Too many questions to be dealt with in an hour or so. A story to be continued, maybe in a series of 'Pyramid-talks', as minister Van Ardenne proposed: "We have already had breakfast together: shall we make it dinner next time?"
P+ Webtip: Meer over Hart