Reframing the Discussion and the Questions We Ask
One of our objectives in developing this book was to move away from some of the old and, frankly, unproductive debates in the BoP domain that end up narrowing the scope of interest and constraining the opportunity for creative thinking. These debates have often centered on a “fortune-finding” perspective, focusing on important-sounding but mainly academic questions such as “Precisely how big is the BoP market?” and “Are BoP ventures good or bad for the poor?” Both questions, of course, can be answered by “It depends,” and the interpretations vary based on the assumptions made. Answers to questions like these will remain elusive and, likely, highly context-specific. At least to the authors of this book, pursuing these lines of inquiry seems to offer limited opportunity to make a substantial contribution to this domain, or to enhance its impact.
Accordingly, we believe that much more attention should be focused on critical questions that emerge from a “fortune-creating” viewpoint. These include, “How can we create a market with the BoP?” and “How can we make BoP ventures better for the poor?” Surely, these questions are more relevant and potentially productive, given that numerous BoP ventures already exist, and their numbers will only grow in the future.
Indeed, BoP ventures are here—for better or worse. Let’s focus on how to make them better (and figure out what “better” means!). But before diving into these issues in the chapters that follow, let’s first establish some boundary conditions for what constitutes the BoP and BoP business.