Before the ICCO Global Summit 2006, many people were looking forward to Yann Risz speak about “Next Practices” (see link)… And many women were looking forward to meeting Yann Risz in person (see accompanying pic)…

While the women weren’t disappointed by Yann, some people were confused by his session.

I am not going to get into the what the women liked, but I would like to comment on the Session.

Most people got carried away by the title of the Session and the theme of the Summit, and were perhaps looking for fireworks in terms of new tools and technologies from Yann.

But if only those who complained had read the synopsis of Yann’s session, they would have realized that he delivered what he promised – which is a killer opportunity in its own right, however “unglamorous” it may look and sound.

Yann Risz talked of ‘bottom of the pyramid’ consumers (which many “elitist” brands/agencies pooh-paah), and how companies can address and alleviate their social and economic issues, while creating relevant business opportunities for themselves.

Unfortunately, the Q and A session got waylaid by self righteous and so called “politically correct” questions like “oh how can you take advantage of economically disadvantaged people” – while the questioners completely missed the point that these companies were creating mutual wealth, and attempting to raise the basic standard of living at the bottom of the pyramid.

I doubt anyone can question the motives of Yann’s first example – ITCs e-choupal and the positive change it has brought to the landscape of rural India. And while I personally believe his other example, ICICI Bank, is stretching itself thin when providing low cost, low value finance across the country, and will have a tough time sustaining this promise in the long run. Where’s the profit in that!?

As Jairam Ramesh, Minister of State for Commerce, Government of India pointed out later in the Summit – “while countries like India and China will certainly become global economic super powers in the macro sense, the per capita income will still be very low, with the average citizen still struggling to make two ends meet.”

And as Yann pointed out – this ‘average bottom of the pyramid citizen’ is going to be a huge chunk of consumer; a very large audience which we will also have to address – if we’re to survive and thrive, in the next generation economy.