Opportunity spaces vs ideas – business development for the BoP markets

Inaugural Issue of Entreprenuer magazine, photo taken in Kanpur India, Sept 13, 2009

Ideas or concepts are not the same as opportunity spaces or gaps in a particular market. Exploratory user research can identify opportunities for innovation, that is, either unmet needs or gaps in the existing ecosystem which could be filled by a product or service with the intent to create and provide value. On the other hand, actual ideas for new businesses or concepts for products or services may not be the immediate outcome of such exploration. While the insights from the field can act as waymarkers for new revenue generation opportunities, they are not the actual ideas or concepts themselves.

Imho, this conflation of the two – a concept or an idea and an opportunity space or gap in the existing market – gives rise to confusion about the goals or outcomes from field research, particularly in the short term or for the immediate results. It must be noted that even insights derived from observations are usually the result of data analysis and synthesis, best done with a team after the field research has been completed. Only after this can one say with any degree of confidence which gaps or behaviours observed would translate into potential opportunity spaces for innovation or new product development leading to sustainable and sustained revenue generation opportunities. Finally, the concepts or ideas can be generated within the constraints of this opportunity space.

The potential ‘market’ at the BoP is vast, complex and chaotic and too many needs go unmet that at first glance that it may seem opportunities are indeed available  for the picking and the possibility of fortunes immense.

The first critical challenge is to evaluate which of these potential areas offer value; a return on the customer’s investment, meagre though it may be.

The next is to evaluate the time and effort any new venture among BoP customers would require before it would start showing returns.

This is not a hit and run market.

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