BoP Articles and Books

Selected writings about the BoP


The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid (PDF)
C.K. Prahalad and Stuart Hart, strategy + business, First Quarter 2002.

What Works: Serving the Poor, Profitably (PDF)
C.K. Prahalad and Digital Dividend project director Allen Hammond, Harvard Business Review, June 2002.

The Great Leap
By Stuart L. Hart and Clayton M. Christensen, MIT Sloan management Review Issue Fall 2002

The Great Disruption (PDF)
By Clayton Christensen, Thomas Craig and Stuart Hart, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2001

Reinventing strategies for emerging markets: beyond the transnational model (PDF)
By Ted London and Stuart L. Hart, Journal of International Business Studies 2004 35

Poor Peoples' Knowledge: Promoting Intellectual Property in Developing Countries (PDF)
Edited by J.Michael Finger and Philip Schuler, the World Bank and Oxford University Press, 2004

Beyond 'Basic Needs' Business Strategies (PDF)
Erik Simanis, Stuart Hart, and Duncan Duke, MIT Innovations Journal, Winter 2008

The Base of the Pyramid Protocol, 2nd Edition (PDF)
Simanis, Hart, DeKoszmovsky, Donohue, Duke, Enk, Gordon, Thieme, 2008

Recommended Books

Below are a list of books I found particularly helpful while working in the BoP. You'll see a list of BoP-specific books, business & strategy books, as well as some "deep dive" accounts of authors immersing themselves in BoP communities.


Capitalism at the Crossroads: Aligning Business, Earth, and Humanity (2nd Edition)

by Stuart L. Hart

Professor Stuart Hart is one the founders of the Base of the Pyramid movement, and a thought leader on ways to address pressing environmental and social challenges through enterprise. In Capitalism at the Crossroads, Hart shows companies how to identify sustainable products that can drive new growth as they also help solve today's most crucial social problems. Drawing on his experience consulting with top companies and NGOs worldwide, Hart shows how to integrate new technology to deliver profitable solutions that reduce poverty and protect the environment at the same time.


The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else

by Hernando De Soto

Hernando De Soto's thought provoking work opens with the explanation that the world's poor actually own a huge amount of assets, trillions of dollars worth of assets according to his research, with an estimate of $9.3 trillion in real estate assets alone. Unfortunately by in large the poor cannot capitalize on these assets (you can't mortgage your house to get a business loan), and the majority of the world's poor, barred by laws or costs, fall outside of the legal sectors that allow them to their assets as capital (in other words, according to De Soto capitalism fails because of a lack of systems to turn assets into capital). De Soto describes five mysteries: the Mystery of Missing Information, the Mystery of Capital, the Mystery of Political Awareness, the Missing Lessons of U.S. History, and the Mystery of Legal Failure. Highly recommended.


How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas

by David Bornstein

David Bornstein's inspirational second work, a compendium of social entrepreneurs and how they are changing their worlds. Bornstein follows the work of a number of Ashoka fellows (see as well as Ashoka founder Bill Drayton, while offering some observations and principles of social entrepreneurship along the way. Definitely a must read.


The Innovators Dilemma

by Clayton Christensen

Clayton Christensen's groundbreaking work on disruptive innovation and its incubation in emerging markets. Stuart Hart and Clay wrote an article that ties these concepts into the BoP, "The Great Leap: Driving Innovation From the Base of the Pyramid". In this book Christensen goes into detail about why established market leaders often fail in the face of a disruptive innovation, the need to right size your resources and incentives to match the size of the opportunity, and incubation in markets with different requirements than mainstream markets. Highly recommended.


Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant

by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

While Blue Ocean Strategy does not focus on BoP cases or examples, Kim and Mauborgne's bestselling work provides a critical perspective for building enterprises in the BoP: the creation of new industries and markets. The idea of creating a "blue ocean", or a new market space, rather than competing or expanding an existing one, has a lot of bearing for firms looking to work in the BoP. In addition to numerous case studies around firms that created "blue oceans" (Starbuck's, Southwest Airlines, Curves, Cirque du Soleil, and more), Kim and Mauborgne provide a number of analytical tools to help you through the process of analyzing and growing new industry opportunities. We've even adapted some of these tools to use during implementations of the BoP Protocol. A highly recommended strategy book.


Ripples from the Zambezi: Passion, Entrepreneurship, and the Rebirth of Local Economies

by Ernesto Sirolli

Ernesto Sirolli's chronicle of his people centered approach to development, based on the concept that economic development is a byproduct of personal growth and self-actualization. A simple yet practical guide to "Enterprise Facilitation", helping people realize their own dreams and launch their own businesses. Keep in mind that Enterprise Facilitation is a facilitation technique: i.e. it's about helping other people develop businesses rather than developing your own. For example, some of Sirolli's hands-off maxims may get you into trouble if you're using a co-creation approach like the BoP Protocol or if you're working to develop a business in which you have a stake. Still, Sirolli's perspectives and experiences working with entrepreneurs are well worth seeing; you can find out more about him and Enterprise Facilitation at the Sirolli Institute.


Small is Beautiful - Economics as if People Mattered

by E.F. Shumacher

E.F. Shumacher's work from 1973, really a collection of essays and talks, that started many people down the path to thinking about sustainability and rethinking development. A thought provoking book that may not have all the answers, but really helps you take a different perspective on business, economics, and development.


Innovation and Entrepreneurship

by Peter Drucker

“The new always looks so small, so puny, so unpromising next to the size and performance of maturity.”

Peter Drucker's business classic from 1986 has as much relevance today almost twenty years later as it did back then, and in particular for the Base of the Pyramid. Drucker covers the seven sources of innovation, with examples and case studies: the Unexpected, Incongruities, Process Need, Market and Industry Structures, Demographics, Changes in Perception, and New Knowledge. The methodologies and tools presented by Drucker are highly applicable to the BOP and even help argue the business case for new ventures in the Base of the Pyramid.


Shadow Cities: A billion squatters, a new urban world

by Robert Neuwirth

We enjoyed this book quite a bit, particularly Neuwirth's rebuttal to DeSoto (see above) on the importance or usefulness of property titles in the Base of the Pyramid. However, we did find his depiction of Kibera grimmer than the Kibera we experienced. On the whole though, Shadow Cities is still a great read and glimpse into four of the world's largest shanty towns and we highly recommend it.

From Publishers Weekly:

"In this superbly probing book, investigative reporter Neuwirth relates the struggles and successes of some of the world's most resourceful poor people, among the one billion urban squatters in countries like Brazil, India, Kenya and Turkey. Having lived alongside them in these four countries and thus gained firsthand knowledge of their daily lives, Neuwirth is able to dismantle many common preconceptions about the so-called slums in which they live."


Last Orders at Harrods - An African Tale

by Michael Holman

A little bit of fiction to throw into the mix. A great satire about the world's relationship with Africa and the Western attempts at developing the "dark continent". Africans reading this book think it's written about each of their own countries, though it's set in the fictional country of Kuwisha, in the fictional shanty town Kireba... The book was written with the help of our good friends at Carolina for Kibera and is a delightful read. It certainly made us think twice about some of our own do-good schemes as we began our work in Kibera.