Survival markets design?


I just came across this world economic pyramid from the World Resources Institute and was intrigued to notice that CK Prahalad’s ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’ segment – those other 4 billion who live on whatever the current amount per day is in whichever relevant currency – has been designated survival markets.

I hadn’t heard of this segment which Jugaad has focused on of late ever referred to before as ‘Survival markets’ though when I asked my friend Emma Ginger, who runs a fair trade baby boutique what she thought of it, she said that it made more sense to her for those at the bottom of the pyramid than the more descriptive BoP, which requires prior knowledge of what pyramid one is referring to. What do you think? Does the term survival market sound terrifying?

Anyway, as I continue to ponder the nomenclature – though you’ll note of course that both names are from the producers or sellers point of view and not from those who are actually underserved or overlooked – I wanted to point out that some of the most creative, innovative solutions to everyday problems emerge from this segment.


Design is said to be the activity of solving problems or finding solutions to challenges or unmet needs – by this definition, the creative solutions that are jury rigged or ‘jugaad’ such as the mobile charging done by streetside vendors in Uganda as captured by Jan Chipchase shown above – are exemplars of ‘survival market design’ to coin a phrase.

And taking that thought one step further, as one is wont to do, how would we begin to describe such jugaads or innovations or examples of survival design?  Here’s a start to kick off the conversation:

1. Volume not profit margins – products targeting survival market would need to rely on volumes sold rather than profit margins and so their design – such as their choice of materials, finishes etc etc – should not convey the message that this is a high margin product.

2. Durable and sustainable
3. Reusable and recyclable
4. Affordable and appropriate

Mind you, this is just a start at thinking along these lines but what do you think?

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