The last market

Most of the world's companies market their goods to the richest part of the world's population. An increasing number of companies are realizing that by doing so they have neglected more than five billion consumers at the bottom of the income pyramid.

C.K. Prahalad: “Don’t consider the poor as victims or as a burden, but start to see them as flexible and creative entrepreneurs and consumers”.

A market consisting of 800 million wealthy people worldwide, with a spending power of more than 15,000 dollar per year each . A market moreover that is almost completely saturated and that therefore leaves less and less possibilities for corporations to compete and to grow. However, since a groundbreaking 2002 article from business guru C.K. Prahalad and Stuart Hart (professor management at the Cornell University, USA), called 'The Bottom of the Pyramid', more and more companies realize that they neglected more than 4 billion customers at the bottom of the income pyramid. Customers with less than 1500 dollar to spend on a yearly basis. The challenges to develop and sell products to the poorest of the planet are enormous, but so are the profits. Even more, Hart and Prahalad state that western corporations will go under in the global battle for the market, if they keep on neglecting the world’s poor. The poor can be the source of innovation and they can be the motor behind global trade and wealth. “Don’t consider the poor as victims or a burden, but start to see them as flexible and creative entrepreneurs and consumers”, they wrote.

Since 2002, US managers at Hewlett-Packard, Nike, Monsanto, and other corporations started to realize that they had overlooked the possibilities of the market at the bottom of the pyramid. They started venture funds and dedicated senior managers time and energy to examine opportunities. Recently, corporations such as Philips, chemical giant DSM and Unilever, followed. Philips for instance, has started to develop products for the bottom of the market, such as cheap, effective woodstoves, and cheap mobile phones.

This documentary follows multinationals in their quest for this market, and investigates the pros and cons of marketing products to the poor. DSM junior managers that are given the opportunity to investigate the bottom of the market in India for new products will be filmed during their activities . Unilever’s battle with local soap producers on the Indian market will be investigated. Philips’ product design and market-strategy for the developing world will be scrutinized.

Can the bottom of the pyramid be mobilized? What is the urgency, both for the poor and for western corporations? Is this a true win-win situation or a neo-colonial strategy in disguise?

Director: Suchen Tan
Research: Gijs Meyer Swantee, IJsbrand van Veelen, Martijn Kieft
Producer: Judith van den Berg
Editors in chief: Doke Romeijn, Jos de Putter