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Despite the growing belief that the billions of poor -- what the late management thinker C.K. Prahalad termed the "bottom of the pyramid" -- can actually make up a viable economic market, most attempts to harness it have failed. Procter & Gamble, a $79bn (in sales) company better known for its middle- and upper-middle-class brands than for its low-end offerings, thinks there's another way to reach those consumers. So it has quietly launched a skunkworks, populated mostly by technical folks rather than market researchers, to approach the $2-a-day consumer from a new perspective. Rather than try to invent products first or rely on market research alone, the group spends days or weeks in the field, visiting homes in Brazil, China, India, and elsewhere. It's the same approach the company uses in developed markets but requires much more effort, without the obvious potential payoff from consumers with disposable income. "Our innovation strategy is not just diluting the top-tier product for the lower-end consumer," says Robert McDonald, P&G's CEO and chairman. "You have to discretely innovate for every one of those consumers on that economic curve, and if you don't do that, you'll fail."
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