The 4 Ps of inclusive business: Perseverance, Partnerships, Pilots and Passion

Publication by Business Innovation Facility (BIF)

Success in inclusive business depends on getting the business model right. But so far there is little known about which business models work, how long success takes and what success looks like in practice. This report helps fill that gap, drawing on findings from the portfolio of projects supported by the Business Innovation Facility (BIF), during its pilot phase in Bangladesh, India, Malawi, Nigeria and Zambia.

Drawing on our experience of providing substantial support to 40 companies, plus light-touch support to hundreds of others, we identify the key elements of a business model that are needed for companies developing an inclusive business – which might be the whole, or part, of their business. We use the term ‘inclusive business’ to describe profitable, core business activity that tangibly expands opportunities for the people at the base of the economic pyramid (BoP), as producers, suppliers, workers, distributors, consumers – or as innovators.

The models are innovative by nature, but also constantly adapting and changing in the face of new challenges and opportunities. Those that work and scale should enable companies to achieve long-term strategic commercial objectives and reach thousands of producers or millions of consumers at the base of the pyramid.

As BIF was explicitly open to taking risk, a share of ‘failures’ was expected. As of mid/late 2013, 80 per cent of businesses in the portfolio are progressing and 20 per cent are stalled or ‘on ice’. These businesses are diverse and, although they are not a representative sample of inclusive business, and our data varies in quality, we see clear messages emerging across the portfolio.

The report presents 10 overall findings, clustered under two themes: 1) Companies investing in inclusive business need the right business model, but this takes time and innovation; 2) Commercial and social returns are small and variable, but are emerging and expected to grow significantly over the next five years.

You can read the total report ‘The 4 Ps of inclusive business: how perseverance, partnerships, pilots and passion can lead to success’ here.