Emerging Markets

Trickle Up Movement

While there is much room for true innovation to happen in the developed economies of the world, TrickleUp Design is inspired by the growing movement for designers and companies to look to the base of the economic pyramid to generate meaningful products and services that engage a new generation of consumers, while at the same time, creating value and profit. A number of companies now understand “that the traditional model of developing new products is quietly reversing course.” Many are calling it “’trickle up innovation,’ where ideas take shape in developing markets first, then work their way back to the West”. [1]

“Multinationals and start-ups alike can learn valuable innovation lessons by observing inventions and services that originate in emerging-markets — and then adapting them for the developed world. Some of the world’s leading thinkers and business school professors are now coming up with playbooks for corporations that are seeking such a “trickle-up” innovation strategy.” [2] And while business has much to gain, trickle up innovation is not just a trend to make a profit, but it is an effective means to help those living in poverty move out of poverty in a way that is financially and socially sustaining. It offers a glimpse into a new framework for an economic system that is more humane, more equitable, and ultimately more profitable in both developed and developing areas of the world.

The movement towards trickle up design is long and represents an ‘about-face’ to the trickle down theory that dominated economic thought not so long ago. In response to the current global financial crisis, leaders from developing and developed nations, businesses, designers and consumers alike are looking to new models for creating fairer, more sound means of creating, producing and transacting.


The BoP, or the Bottom of the Pyramid refers to the 4 billion people living on less than $2 per day. C.K. Prahalad began his book, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, with the statement: “If we stop thinking of the poor as victims or as a burden and start recognizing them as resilient and creative entrepreneurs and value conscious consumers, a whole new world of opportunity will open up.” [3]

Most companies still fail to see the kind of opportunity that can open by engaging this massive untapped market and the new consumers that can be created as a result. Bottom of the pyramid customers have much to gain from a competitive marketplace that can offer products and services that are well designed and appropriately positioned and priced. And the companies that serve them have much profit to be made.

There are a few companies that have been at the leading edge of this trend. General Electric (GE) marketed an electrocardiograph (ECG) machine in the U.S. that was originally designed for the developing world. Aside from GE, companies like Nokia, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever are looking to trickle up innovation as a means of reaching new customers and surviving economic uncertainty in developed markets.

Our Growing Expertise

As a consultancy, TrickleUp Design is carving out a niche that focuses on assisting companies in creating products and services specifically for emerging economies and to do so in a manner that is socially, environmentally and financially sustainable. We believe this is not only the ethical way to do business but increasingly, a best practice for staying relevant in an evolving marketplace. In the future, this triple bottom line is what consumers worldwide will demand. As this unfolds, we plan to be at the cutting edge of bringing meaningful solutions to the global market. We invite you to explore the opportunities within this emerging marketplace and allow us to help you create a new product, service and/or system that will meaningfully engage the tremendous potential at the base of the economic pyramid.


1. Fitzgerald, Michael. (March, 2009). “As the World Turns.” Fast Company. Issue 133. 33-34.

2. Jana, Reena. (7 April 2009), “5 Tips for Trickle-Up Innovation from C.K. Prahalad.” BusinessWeek. retrieved 11 August 2011.

3. Prahalad, C.K. (2004). The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Publishing.