Rotman Management

The Power of Innovative Supply Chains

How do you define social entrepreneurship?

I like the definition given by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, who founded Grameen Bank: Social entrepreneurship is a form of entrepreneurship that seeks to create organizations that serve a social purpose while still being able to cover costs from operations. However, this classic view of social entrepreneurship is limited, because it sees financial profit maximization and social profit maximization as opposites.

My research builds a more nuanced view of social entrepreneurship — one where financial profit maximization and social profit maximization are not at odds. There are many opportunities to harness technology and operational innovations to enable organizations to pursue both, simultaneously. Many of these opportunities lie at the base of the pyramid — a term that denotes the poorest consumers in the world, which is a very fast growing market. Organizations, small and large, must look beyond ‘charity’ when serving this market. There is a huge opportunity for innovation, profitability, and positive social impact at the base of the pyramid.

Over the last two decades, there has been increased interest in life-improving technologies and products for the base of the pyramid (BoP). Can you describe the supply and demand situation?

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