Call it what you like - "bottom up" or "trickle up" innovation (though one wonders if it will be a flood instead since its the other 90%) - but we can't help but be pleased to see the basic concept of designing products for maximum constraints first and then scaling them up for wealthier markets has finally gone viral. Low income markets and customers are some of the toughest nuts to crack and one hopes this means its a signal to take design for the next billion as the serious challenge that it is as well as a great opportunity for creative cross pollination.
The process turns conventional product development on its head. Over the years, multinationals have prospered by turning out premium-priced products for the world's affluent. Rather than also designing products for poorer people elsewhere, many businesses found they could simply pass yesteryear's models down, as if they were unloading fleets of used cars. Lately, big companies such as Microsoft (MSFT), Nokia (NOK), and Procter & Gamble (PG) are discovering that they can profit by targeting the world's masses first. And they can score again by selling these low-priced products elsewhere
"The dominant logic holds that innovation comes from the U.S., goes to Europe and Japan, then gravitates to poor countries," says C.K. Prahalad, a strategy professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business and author of The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits. "But now we're starting to see a reversal of that flow."
Niti Bhan focuses on offering strategic insight for growth opportunities and revenue generation in the rapidly evolving interstitial space between design and business. Her 15 years of experience include employers such McCann Erickson Worldwide, Hewlett Packard India, The Second City and most recently, the Institute of Design. She is an engineer and an MBA whose most significant achievement in the field of design has been dropping out of two graduate design programs on two continents in two centuries - the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and the Institute of Design, Chicago. Her areas of interest are business intelligence and trends, business strategy as well as creating a compelling user case for design as force for increasing value.