Wednesday, May 15, 2013

how misinformed ideas about profit are holding back the world's poor?


fastcoexist | I run a for-profit business that delivers products and services to customers earning less than $6 a day in West Africa. When I tell people this, I frequently encounter disbelief or concern. The three most common responses I hear are:  
  • Surely you can’t make money working with people who are so poor?
  • Don’t you feel like you are taking advantage of these people by making money from them?
  • Wouldn’t charity do a better job of meeting their needs?
While these questions are well-intentioned, I initially found them upsetting because they go far beyond a healthy skepticism about my business model. They made me doubt whether I should be working with poor consumers at all.

While I stayed the course, I fear that many will simply choose a simpler path of building a startup in developed markets. The absolute worst thing that can happen for the poorest people on Earth is that the next generation of superstar entrepreneurs ends up in Silicon Valley making iPhone Apps, rather than trying to address the problems of the 4 billion people who need them the most.

So next time you overhear one of these questions, do the world’s poor a favor and shoot it down. Here’s how: