Editor’s Note: New blogger Uma Hemachandran is a Portfolio Associate based in Hyderabad.
The next Indian general elections are due soon, and one crucial battle line in the upcoming election will be the parties’ interest in addressing the bottom of the pyramid.
Recently, opposition leader Lal Krishna Advani of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) declared that “…a whole new world will open up if we stop seeing the poor as victims or as a burden and start recognizing them as resilient and creative entrepreneurs and value conscious consumers.”
(Interestingly, Mr. Advani borrowed his words verbatim from BoP strategist C.K. Prahalad. If that’s not an endorsement of the BoP approach, then I don’t know what is.)
Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, P. Chidambaram, the current finance minister of India and a Congress party man, noted that “sections left out, such as farmers, people belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes, minorities and those working in small occupations, must be brought into the mainstream.”
While Congress and BJP have their own versions of the addressing inclusive growth, the truth is that the bottom of the pyramid will have much to cheer about no matter which party comes to power.
That said, the challenge in India is (as always) the last mile – ensuring that policy benefits actually reaches the intended people. The benefits of privatisation have been around for people to see in telecom and road infrastructure development, and this direction will not be reversed. It will not be a surprise if the government encourages private players to help breach the last mile barrier in many sectors including those areas that Acumen operates in (health, housing, water and energy). The government, irrespective of political affiliations, is likely to encourage partnerships with groups and enterprises who can deliver efficiently to the BoP.
Those of us at Acumen are excited and look forward to a new breed of entrepreneurs – perhaps inspired by politicians – that are addressing the problems of poverty.