Exploring the intersection of business strategy and poverty alleviation offers the opportunity for students to gain a deep understanding of issues and challenges that are often far from their classrooms and prior experiences. Specifically, through Business Strategies for the Base of the Pyramid, Ted London seeks to provide the core skills, stimulate the competitive imagination, and offer the mentoring that students need to become future leaders in this domain. To do so effectively, he has emphasized innovative approaches to bringing the BoP context into the classroom (including through a rich set of teaching materials discussed below) and infusing these efforts with the opportunity to address real-time challenges faced by leading organizations operating in this domain.
To facilitate action-based learning, London has led numerous Multidisciplinary Action Projects (MAPs) through the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. MAPs are 7-week immersion courses where first year MBA students, working in teams, tackle pressing business challenges for sponsor organizations. His partners include MNCs, host country companies, entrepreneurial start-ups, and development sector organizations.
These MAPs have taken students to a wide variety of countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America including Bangladesh, Benin, Cambodia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Liberia, Mongolia Nicaragua, Mexico, the Philippines, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
Because of the lack of business school-oriented teaching materials in the BoP domain, London had the challenge – and opportunity – to develop his own materials, which includes an integrated set of cases, simulations, videos and teaching notes.
Each case was developed with specific learning goals in mind. These cases explore issues related to business model development, market entry strategies, capability development, non-traditional partnerships, smart subsidies, market creation, scaling, and assessing poverty alleviation impacts. Over the past few years, he has developed more than 15 cases, all with detailed teaching notes.
He has also created a number of 4-8 minute videos with key protagonists involved in these cases, including a number filmed in BoP markets. These videos are designed to complement the case material, as well as open up new avenues for discussion. Seeing and hearing from these corporate leaders, non-profit managers, and development sector professionals helps drive home unique aspects of operating in the BoP context.
For a BoP course to truly explore the opportunities and challenges that enterprise leaders face, bringing the context alive in the classroom is critical. This does not just make the class more “interesting” but provides students with the necessary background that enables them to more productively engage in a mutual learning environment.
Walmart and USAID: The Evolution of a Global Cross-Sector Partnership
This case explores the evolution of the cross-sector relationship between Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Walmart Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) from 2000-2015. It focuses on partnerships that sought to build the capacity of smallholder farmers in the developing world. The case explores the ways in which this collaboration came about, how it was supported by the partners, and the level of success achieved as measured by the Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Walmart Foundation, and USAID. The case dilemma is to identify learnings drawn from these partnerships and determine how they can be applied to a more ambitious approach to collaboration. From Walmart’s perspective, further collaboration with USAID could result in a partnership strategy that yields both significant social impact and important business outcomes. However, the partnership model had to enable innovation and flexibility, while maintaining efficiency, sustainability, and scalability.
Constructing a Base-of-the-Pyramid Business in a Multinational Corporation: CEMEX’s Patrimonio Hoy Looks to Grow
This case describes CEMEX’s Patrimonio Hoy in 2012, which is a startup initiative designed to help low-income customers construct their own homes. Israel Moreno, Director of Patrimonio Hoy, must present his recommendations to CEMEX’s top management that outline a growth strategy for the initiative and its expansion into new markets.
Movirtu’s Cloud Phone Service: Funding a Base-of-the-Pyramid Venture
Before this start-up spends hundreds of hours pursuing venture capital (VC), Movirtu must decide whether a profit-oriented VC investment will fit its vision for both growth and social impact. Movirtu’s "Cloud Phone" software is designed for the nearly one billion people who cannot afford mobile phones and, as a result, borrow phones from friends and family. Movirtu provides phone sharers with a private number that sends and receives calls. Movirtu already secured two seed-round impact investors, Gray Ghost Ventures and Grassroots Business Fund. For its next round of financing, Movirtu was approached by TLcom Capital, an experienced VC. Students must decide: will having TLcom as an investor allow Movirtu to not only survive but achieve maximum financial and social impact?
Building a Scalable Business with Small-Holder Farmers in Kenya: Honey Care’s Beekeeping Model
Madison Ayer, Honey Care Africa (HCA) CEO, is looking to scale the business to generate more benefits for Kenyan small-holder farmers. He is seeking a better assessment of HCA’s impacts on farmer families, especially children age 8 and under, to attract investors for the expansion. Ayer is also attempting to reduce side-selling by building stronger relationships with farmer families and perhaps hiring brokers. Students are asked to identify opportunities to generate greater impact and enhance the enterprise’s value proposition.
Cases available through WDI Publishing
Cases available through Harvard Business Publishing
London's teaching materials have been adopted for classroom use at leading universities across the globe including:
Arizona | Arizona State | Ashesi (Ghana) | British Columbia | BYU | Carnegie Mellon | Case Western | Colorado | Columbia | Cornell | Coventry | Duke | Exeter (UK) | ESMT | Georgetown | George Washington | IIM-Bangalore (India)| INSEAD | Ivey/Western Ontario | Michigan | MIT | Nat’l Univ. of Singapore | North Carolina | Notre Dame | NYU | Pretoria (South Africa) | Ontario | Oregon | Ottawa | Oxford | Rice | Rotterdam (Erasmus) | San Diego | Singapore Management Univ | South Florida | S.P. Jain (India) | Stanford | Tel Aviv | Temple | Texas (Austin) | Toronto | UCLA | UCSB | USC | Virginia | Waterloo | Yale