Creative capitalism: the poor are potentially an enormous market. Question is, how do you unlock this potential?

Author:Kaul, Mohan
Position:OPINION - Viewpoint essay

In this column, I would like to take up the subject of creative capitalism--the initiative geared towards addressing the issue of poverty alleviation by means of private sector involvement.

The Commonwealth Business Council has worked steadfastly towards being a driving force behind making globalisation work for all. In the past 10 years we have achieved tremendous success in terms of increased trade and investment into developing countries and emerging markets.

However, I feel that we have somehow failed to make much impact on spreading the benefits of globalisation more widely. In other words, to bring benefits to those who are at the "bottom of the pyramid".

Despite the overall progress in economic growth and development in many countries, and the significant number of people lifted out of poverty, globalisation has created gaps between the haves and have-nots in terms of wealth, education, health and access to technology.

Many visionaries have talked about making globalisation work for all, but it still remains very illusive. CBC believes that business will play a key role in economic growth and poverty alleviation and the way forward should include economic empowerment to engage the people at the bottom of the pyramid in wealth creation. We have to find creative ways to do this--a new form of 'creative capitalism'.

The good news is that there are some--both organisations and individuals--who have succeeded in catering to the bottom of the pyramid. The biggest contribution they have made is 'not ignoring the poor'.

Bottom of the pyramid

It is generally assumed that the poor have no market value. This is incorrect. Developing countries have tremendous growth opportunities. Within these markets, the bottom of the pyramid also represents a major opportunity. There are about four billion poor in this world and the estimated potential scope of their economic activity is more than $13 trillion in PPP terms.

Until the poor are financially engaged and empowered, the problem of poverty cannot be solved. And I believe it is not just the job of the governments and NGOs. I think that companies can make a big difference here. We have to look beyond Corporate Social Responsibility.

Access to affordable financial services is one way to start. CBC has been campaigning to make inclusive banking a central financial policy within the Commonwealth governments. We have a Banking Working Group which focuses on ways to improve inclusive banking and 'banking...

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