Being an ethics groupie, the idea of targeting bottom of the pyramid consumers clearly causes me moral anxiety. And when Rama Bijapurkar labeled these four hundred million Indians as the biggest opportunity awaiting brands in India, in We Are Like That Only, I was definitely taken aback. Logically, how could these poor people represent an opportunity for businesses? Indian rope trick of numbers or not, that’s still very, very poor consumers. But the opportunity is there because Indians are restless. Especially evident in the Indian youth, as Atul informed us at orientation, Indians have moved from a need to be satisfied with the present to a need to do all they can in the present to make a better future. And this is why these 400 million bottom of the pyramid consumers in India represent such a vast opportunity for businesses.
But with this big opportunity comes responsibility. Marketers cannot and must not create needs for these vulnerable consumers who have limited experience with sophisticated marketing language, whom barely have the financial resources to pay for basic human needs like food, shelter, and water. But who regulates that? In the U.S. we have all sorts of self-governing organizations as well as the FTC monitoring ads, but in India, are marketing efforts equally governed?
The idea of all these people rising above the poverty line also blows my mind. Is that possible? Economically speaking, is it possible for all these people to rise that far? How far will they go? Does that take away from other’s salaries? I am not informed enough when it comes to the economic logistics of the feasibility of all poor people in any country to be able to get to that top 1% uber-wealthy rich. When I see people here in the U.S. who are doing “dirty jobs” that no one else wants to do, I wonder how we are going to maintain those types of services. For example, if our politicians work together to improve the public education system enough to provide quality education to all American kids, then why would any of these graduates go all the way through the school system, and apply to be a night-shift janitor? With no intention of offending my fellow citizens who do these undesirable jobs, I just wonder if the incomes of these jobs will have to increase or if technology will somehow provide us with solutions or if we will be without these jobs? And then what? Will our economy suddenly fall to pieces if the very bottom falls out when our population is too educated to perform the simplest jobs?