The Base of the Pyramid


Creating New Products and Services for and with the Base of the Pyramid, Special issue of Journal of Product Innovation Management, Edited by Cheryl Nakata; Deadline 31 Mar 2009

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Call For Papers
Special Issue of the Journal of Product Innovation Management

“Creating New Products and Services for and with the Base of the Pyramid”

According to the World Bank, more than half the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. The greatest concentrations reside in developing countries—termed the “base of the pyramid” (BoP). Due to low incomes and other challenges, the BoP has largely been ignored by businesses. However, the market’s immense scale and dearth of competitive offerings spell opportunity. Firms are starting to seize this opportunity by creating new products and services specifically for the BoP. Examples are Unilever, which developed an affordable disinfectant soap to prevent diarrheal disease in rural India; Nokia, which produced for illiterate Brazilians a cell phone with a speaking clock and iconic address book; and e-Choupal, an IT-based agricultural trading network for farmers to check crop prices directly and obtain fair market value on their harvests.

The aim of this special issue is to present research on and practices of innovating for and with the BoP, or BoP innovation. BoP innovation is a new frontier of product and service development, requiring businesses to re-consider traditional processes, strategies, finances, partnerships, research methods, organizational learning routines, and business objectives in innovation endeavors. Knowledge is thus emergent, as firms as diverse as P&G, Haier, and Vodafone rapidly evolve their approaches to create offerings for the very poor. This special issue covers but is not limited to the following topics:

  • Best practices of BoP innovation
  • Success factors for BoP innovation
  • Critical distinctions and adaptations of BoP, over non-BoP, innovation processes
  • Co-creation philosophies and practices for BoP innovation
  • Metrics for successful BoP innovations, e.g. the triple bottom line and mixed qualitative- quantitative measures
  • Research methods to understand the BoP (e.g. action research, participatory rural appraisal, and BoP protocols) and integrate/apply findings to BoP innovation
  • Unique conditions and characteristics of BoP markets and customers (e.g. unreliable electricity and low literacy) and ramifications for new product-service design
  • Knowledge/learning transfers from BoP to non-BoP innovation, such as on scalability, contextualization, sustainability, radical technologies, environmental outcomes
  • Approaches to strategic alliances and partnerships for BoP innovation, such as between private and public, or between for- and not-for-profit, organizations as well as between businesses and BoP communities
  • Business, economic, and social transformations through BoP innovation

Papers by researchers and practitioners are encouraged, along with appropriate methods, whether conceptual or empirical, qualitative or quantitative. If empirical, case studies, ethnographies, surveys, depth interviews, experiments, hybrid methods, and other approaches are all welcomed. Papers should be no longer than 30 pages, double space, 12 point font, inclusive of references, tables, and figures, and follow the Journal of Product Innovation Management format.

The editor of the special issue is Cheryl Nakata in the Department of Managerial Studies, University of Illinois-Chicago, 601 S. Morgan (MC 243), Chicago, IL 60607. All submissions should be sent via email to by March 31, 2009.