Novartis: Building a Sustainable Business at the Bottom of the Pyramid
Inspired by CK Prahalad’s book on the “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid,” Novartis was exploring the possibility of building a sustainable business at the BOP in India. The goal was to create a business that would improve access to healthcare for the poor while being financially profitable, unlike Novartis’s traditional philanthropic and corporate social responsibility approaches. To successfully develop a sustainable business Novartis needed to answer a series of strategic questions: Which BOP patients were the best targets for reaching the social and financial goals of the program? Which diseases should the program cover, and with what types of products (patent protected, generics, OTC)? Which stages of the patient journey should the program address? Which stakeholders should be targeted? What communication channels should be used? What should be the program’s scale? Where to put the social business group in the Novartis organization?
What Indian companies can learn from their Chinese rivals
As the founder of the modern Chinese economy, Deng Xiaoping once observed that “No matter if it is a white cat or a black cat; as long as it can catch mice, it is a good cat.”, meaning that one cannot be philosophically wedded to ways of doing things. Deng also used a quote originally coined by Mao Zedong, noting that one must “seek truth from facts”.
These quotes heralded his efforts to create the so-called “socialist market economy” of China as clearly the economic model under Mao had failed to deliver the economic progress the country wanted. Deng’s pioneering efforts unleashed the Chinese economy, generating decades of double-digit growth that has now catapulted China to being the largest economy in the world. This dramatic growth has spurred the rise of giant corporations like Lenovo, Haier, Huawei, Mindray, TCL, BYD, and many others in a span of a couple of decades.
What can Indian businesses learn from the Chinese experience?
Arogya Parivar – Novartis’ BOP strategy for healthcare in rural India
There was a large segment of low-income population comprising about 1.2 billion people, with incomes between US$2-5 a day with no bank accounts, no access to modern financial services, no phones, dependent on informal or subsistence livelihoods and lacked access to amenities and basic healthcare. Addressing these unmet needs could create significant market opportunities for businesses while also contributing to social goals. This was particularly true in the healthcare market, where the BOP had long been underserved. Many Asian and African countries, where the BOP typically were, faced the double burden of infectious diseases and increasing rates of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases etc. Novartis decided that it was time to seriously consider the possibility of commercial opportunities amongst the world’s poor, notably India.