Business, Poverty and Development

Poverty and inequality are some of the greatest challenges facing humanity. Recently some innovative minds have come up with novel solutions based on business lines. For example Mohammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank has successfully implemented a market-oriented and profit-generating model of poverty-eradication. Similarly, the well-known and distinguished management thinker, C.K. Prahalad in his influential book, “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid” argues convincingly that market of the rich is now more or les saturated and the future market and the source of profit lies in fulfilling the needs of the millions of poor people in the bottom of the economic pyramid. Many entrepreneurs, following Prahalad’s clue, are now venturing into the low-income sector and finding there fertile sources of profit. This has given birth to the notion that poverty eradication need not be left entirely to charitable organizations, NGOs or government, and business can play an important role in fighting poverty. The advent of business into the field of poverty-eradication is very much welcome. In our modern age, business is the most powerful, innovative and creative social organism. So active participation of business in our battle against poverty is bound to have a positive and substantial impact on reducing the poverty and inequality in our society.

However we must not rigidly link poverty with profit. Such a crucially important task as poverty-eradication should not be tied to profit; it has to be pursued with or without profit. We must keep in mind that elimination of poverty requires not only money and business sense but also moral commitment to the task and sympathy for the poor.

There are individuals who have a great moral passion and vital energy to dedicate their lives for serving the poor. But they may not have the business sense to create a financially viable model. These individuals need constant financial support from charitable and funding agencies to engage their potential in the task of poverty-eradication. On the other hand, there are individual who have the business sense but no moral commitment. They may enter into the low-income sector lured by profit. But they will drop away when the market-condition changes and this Bottom of the Pyramid sector loses its profit-potential. There may also be individual like Mohammad Yunus who can combine moral dedication with business acumen. So for a sustained impetus towards poverty-eradication we must create an environment in which every creative, sincere and dedicated effort towards elimination of poverty, with or without profit, can find sufficient financial support to sustain itself in the long-term.

We must also think beyond poverty. As increasing number of people are delivered from the clutch of poverty and move towards decent standards of living, what next? We, human beings, have a higher destiny beyond economic survival or prosperity. When the basic needs of the body are reasonably fulfilled it awakens progressively higher order needs of our emotional, mental, moral and spiritual being. As the individual strives to satisfy these higher needs, it awakens the corresponding faculties and potentialities of his mind, heart and soul, which leads to his higher evolution. So the task beyond poverty is to create a developmental framework which promotes this higher evolution, with elimination of poverty as an important and indispensable stage in the process.

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