Quite strange and quite inconvenient. To try to get something from the poorest people of society, the bottom of the pyramid. But this is exactly what the Dutch universities of Leiden, Rotterdam and Delft investigate in their Frugal Innovation project.
Quite strange and quite inconvenient, but since there are around four billion people who live at this bottom of the pyramid – in Africa alone already around 500 million – they form a very important population.
That is the reason why these Dutch universities are collecting information and technical equipment at poor gloomy places on different locations in Africa. They visit thousands of households and small businesses.
Sad but true, the largest part of the population in most countries of the world is formed by families who have to live of an average of one dollar a day. In countries like Kenya and Tanzania there is an emerging group of lower middle-class consumers who live of two to ten dollars per day. In the Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa , the three universities develop an integrated and interdisciplinary approach to stimulate this last group in particular and, in doing so, to contribute to a necessary economic transformation. Their objective is to investigate in business models and technology networks that help the EU based companies to successfully develop and sell products and services for this largest market segment in the global economy. According to them it will most likely boost productivity and create benefits for African consumers and producers.
Quite strange and quite inconvenient? Frugal innovation concerns value-sensitive design and marketing strategies that bring sophisticated products within the reach of relatively poorer consumers. It is the group of poorer consumers who are the ones who can offer development opportunities in Africa by inspiring the Dutch universities and their partners, like big European companies. The universities are positive that the combination of the results of this research and re-engineering, re-inventing or stripping down high-value consumer products leads to affordable innovative products which will be launched the coming years.
Quite brave and quite logical
Quite strange and also quite inconvenient. To try to get something from the poorest people of society. However, it is also quite brave and quite logical. If you start a project called Frugal Innovation and want to investigate the 500 million consumers at the bottom of the pyramid it seems right to choose this innovative way to get it. I look forward to the – most likely engaging – outcomes of this Frugal Innovation project.
Wies Kalsbeek Uit de Verf