The world is certainly not a poor place, but the distribution of global wealth is extremely uneven.
In 2018, Forbes reports, there were 2,208 billionaires from 72 countries and territories, including the first ever from Hungary and Zimbabwe. Their combined net worth was $9.1 trillion, up 18% since last year. Over the next 20 years, 500 people will hand over $2.1 trillion to their heirs – a sum larger than the GDP of India, a country of 1.3 billion people.
There are 4 billion people who constitute the Base of the Pyramid (BOP), and they make up more than half the human population. They are the lowest income folks, the poorest of the poor, who are mostly ignored by product manufacturers and service providers. They are excluded from the formal economy.
The world is not bereft of good intentions, nor well-meaning institutions. There are about 10 million NGOs in the world, according to The Global Journal. India alone has 3.3 million NGOs, approximately one NGO for every 400 Indians. In 2017, Quora stated that a record number of Americans donated to charity in 2017, crossing the USD 400 billion mark.
If money, generous individuals, and good institutions are plentiful, why do the problems of poverty and inequality persist?
It is due to what we call the Masculine Philosophy, a philosophy centered on producing Winners, Victors, Champions, Conquerors, Medalists and Top Dogs. There can only be a few of them. In contrast, a much greater number of Losers, Failures, Underachievers, Misfits, and Underdogs co-exist with these Alpha human beings. One cannot exist without the other. Great damage has to be inflicted to other people’s lives so that the last man standing can gain recognition over a field of dead bodies. Even some women, who have been seduced by this philosophy, are eager to conquer territory and dominate others, men and women alike.
What then is the solution? The Feminine Philosophy.
At the core of this philosophy is a recognition of the one person in the world who always succeeds regardless of adversity and lack of resources: Your Mother.
Like all Mothers in the world, when she gave birth to you, she did not write a business plan for this project called You. She has something more than a business plan: a non-negotiable vision that You will be healthy, educated, do well in society and give her grandchildren. She is willing to go through extreme hardship to ensure all these happen. She is an enabler and a facilitator so that the family can achieve good outcomes, never claiming credit when her family does well.
Imagine if we could, like our mothers, facilitate the 4 billion BOP to have access to market opportunities, direct customers, technical skills, training, knowledge and tools transfer, finance and logistics, unlock their spirit of enterprise, and good work ethic. We could increase their income and transform the 4 billion folks into a massive marketplace we might call the Blue Ocean. That Blue Ocean is the poor of today, but the new middle class of tomorrow.
By having clean water, hygiene and sanitation, the poor can be healthier and more productive to earn more money. With technologies like E-Commerce and E-Payments, they can cut out the middlemen and get better prices for their produce by buying and selling directly. If we can unlock the spirit of enterprise and good work ethic of 4 billion people, we open pathways into prosperity; we end poverty irreversibly.
The internet is the handmaiden of the Feminine Philosophy. It is free, it is fair. It enables, it facilitates. In that sense it is feminine. Every effort must be made to ensure that the internet does not become another battleground for the alpha males who want to capture, conquer, and dominate this space.
A concrete manifestation of the feminine philosophy is the BOP HUB, a global platform to accelerate the speed of such transformation. Call it the World Trade Center for the Poor, a physical space where all BOP businesses across sectors and geographies are coordinated and integrated, so that products and services to the poor are delivered faster, cheaper, and better.
Already, there are a few successful blockbusters from emerging economies that stand as ready examples: the Amul milk company in India; Drishtee’s rural distribution of fast-moving consumer goods; MPESA’s mobile payment system in Africa; Patrimonio, Hoy’s low cost housing in Mexico; Selco’s solar home system; BRAC and Grameen Shakti in Bangladesh; and SaniShop’s micro-franchising. The list grows. We pull together all these examples from emerging economies to distill lessons in economic development for the poorest populations. We can call it BOP 101.
To be clear, the Feminine Philosophy is not about being female or being a feminist. It’s about applying the spirit of the Mother so that we can increase our capacity to serve exponentially, leapfrogging from a scarcity mindset to a framework of abundance and success not just for a few, but for all.
In this new year, we urge everyone to help expand the BOP HUB, and to contribute their share for a new economic model that will serve everyone, especially the poorest who continue to be left behind.