20140617-Milstein-600x298.jpg

An interview with faculty fellow Mark Milstein is part of the jumping-off point for a Guardian live chat about how businesses can help end poverty. 

Ending Poverty and Growing Markets

June 17, 2014

20140617-Milstein-600x298.jpg

An interview with faculty fellow Mark Milstein is part of the jumping-off point for a Guardian live chat about how businesses can help end poverty.

The live chat takes on the “base of the pyramid” theory—the idea, popularized in a book by C. K. Prahalad, that businesses can improve conditions for the world’s poorest people by selling them products and services. As the Guardian coverage notes, “The reality has proven far more complex than originally anticipated, and tapping the base of the pyramid far more difficult.”

Milstein, director of Cornell’s Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise, talks about emerging markets and the challenges of selling to and serving consumers at the base of the pyramid:

The difference between success and failure, it seems, comes down to hundreds of details that vary for each specific company, target market, and economic and cultural landscape. “It's all in the details,” Milstein said. “It's not just about ‘what works,’ but what will work for your company.” In other words, pat rules no longer apply. “Initially we had all sorts of rules—like ‘go native’—which make great [Harvard Business Review] articles, but are not helpful to managers trying to champion an initiative,” Milstein said.

Read a transcript of the June 10 discussion in the Guardian.