rsz_1scale-rc-airplanes12If you’re setting out to end global poverty, does it make sense to begin with a small-scale pilot project and plan to expand it in stages if it’s successful? We don’t think so.

To meet the biggest challenge in economic development — scale — your enterprise must aim to transform the lives of five million customers during the first five years and 100 million during the first ten.

Please note that we’re deliberately using the words enterprise and customers because we’re referring to businesses designed to help end poverty. Our starting premise is that only the private sector possesses the resources (financial and human) and the incentives (wages and profits) to ensure that any company that’s successful can sustain itself and grow to global scale.

Equally important, it’s essential that any business whose mission is to help end world poverty must design itself for scale from the outset. It’s nice to provide an essential product or service to poor people in one village or one region, but unless that product or service represents a market of a billion or more potential customers worldwide, your venture can’t hope to attain the scale necessary to make a dent in poverty. After all, there are now 2.7 billion people who live on $2 a day or less. Any effort to reduce that number must think in terms of hundreds of millions of customers.

Paul Polak and Mal Warwick’s award-winning book, The Business Solution to Poverty, highlights 20 “takeaways” that encapsulate much of the book’s essence. Today we have featured the seventh of those takeaways. Future posts will include others. 

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