Popular Science published an exciting, inspiring article about Dean Kamen’s water purifier. (Kamen is the inventor of the Segway, among many other items.) The purifier requires minuscule energy to operate and works reliably in remote, undeveloped places. This makes it well suited to improve health by providing the world’s poorest people with a reliable source of clean water.
As I was reading the article, this particular section jumped out at me.
“ ‘Dean,’ he says to me, ‘if we can make the water, why can’t we do other things too?’ ” Providing clean water could be the cornerstone of what’s known as a bottom-of-the-pyramid strategy for developing markets. By providing the poorest people in the world with new technologies, services, and opportunities, a company can help lift them out of poverty and transform them into viable customers. Hence, the Ekocenter concept took shape as a companion to the water purifier, at least in some markets.
Coca-Cola launched the first Ekocenter in Heidelberg, South Africa in August 2013. A slingshot attached to the faucets provides clean water. Courtesy Coca Cola “We believe Coca-Cola’s business can only be as healthy as the community it is part of, so the well-being of the community is important to our long-term strategy,” says Derk Hendriksen, the general manager of the Ekocenter program. Notably, the company won’t directly profit from the program; each “downtown in a box” will operate as a standalone business run by a local entrepreneur, typically a woman, selected and trained by Coke. (That the soda giant enjoys an image boost in the process goes without saying.)
I love Derk Hendriksen’s quote. It’s a direct refutation of the idea that businesses must be regulated because—absent regulation—they’ll sacrifice the health and safety of their customers for short-term profit. That fallacious idea is crazy making.
Every successful business wants their customers to be as healthy and happy as possible. Repeat customers are the best customers. There’s simply no long-term profit in killing off or driving away your customer base.