Vickram Crishna offers interesting insights--and I accept that the world
is more complicated and that boundaries are often blurred in practice.
How do we understand the recent marketing partnership between Care and
Hindustan Lever in rural India--is it business (yes) or social
development (yes)? Nonetheless, until recently, few socially-minded
entrepreneurs were starting for-profit businesses aimed at serving the
poor, and few large companies consciously adopted strategies aimed at
low-income markets, and now it is distinctly more than a few--we are
looking, potentially, at a paradigm shift here.

We can measure this shift in two ways - the amount of investment aimed
at serving low-income customers, or the number of households who receive
goods and services that meet their needs and at prices and distribution
points that they can afford/access. I like the household or
customer-centered metric. So if we're serious about making a dent in
poverty, ask yourself this question: how many NGOs can reliably provide
service to a million customers or clients every day? How many developing
country governments? Not many, in either case, although governments in
some countries are learning to use ICT to provide scale in service
delivery. Then ask how many large corporations can provide service to a
million, or even 10 million, customers every day? The answer is pretty
obvious. So if we're talking about improving the quality of life for
100's of millions of people, then we better be talking about how to use
the capabilities of large companies--their management skills, logistic
capability, access to finance and technology, etc., in addition to the
needed efforts of NGOs and governments. To me, the most salient fact of
the ITC e-choupal model (which is not perfect--not only caste, but also
gender is a barrier in some areas) is that it already reaches and
empowers close to 4 million farmers, and is growing rapidly.


Allen L. Hammond
Vice President for Innovation & Special Projects
World Resources Institute
10 G Street NE
Washington, DC 20002  USA
V (202) 729-7777 
F (202) 729-7775
[EMAIL PROTECTED]
www.wri.org
www.digitaldividend.org



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