What are the poor spending on?

World Consumption data reveals the incredible market opportunity at the BoP

By Priya Thachadi

There are around 4.5 billion poor living in 92 countries around the developing world who collectively spend more than USD 5 trillion a year, according to the World Consumption Data. The data reveals that the lower consumption segments spend more than the middle and higher consumption segments combined. They spend about USD 2.3 trillion a year on food and beverages alone, with USD 646 billion spent in South Asia and USD 926 billion in East Asia.

The household spending data released by the World Bank Group shows what the low-income segment is willing to pay, which may not be necessarily be based on ‘what they need’. But the customers at the Base of the economic Pyramid (BoP) – people who earn less than USD 8 per day – are value-conscious and risk averse. They seek out goods and services that can improve their lives.

So what do the numbers show?

Food and Beverages Housing Education ICT Clothing, Footwear, Personal Care Energy Transport Health Water
2.8 tn 508 bn 193 bn 306 bn 405 bn 317 bn 298 bn 243 bn 32 bn

*BoP consumption in USD across 92 countries

Affordability and access to financing are key to success in inclusive business. The 4.5 billion people at the BoP spend an enormous amount in total, but very small amounts individually. This means that companies need to sell products and services at low prices offset by higher volumes to succeed. Financing is an important enabler, for large and small purchases alike.

The market for food and beverages in the lower consumption segments is significantly larger than the market in the middle and higher segments combined, similar to energy. While in most other sectors — clothing and footwear, housing, education, health, water — people in the lower consumption segments collectively spend roughly as much as those in the higher segments. Only in transport, financial services, and information and communication technology (ICT) do the two higher segments combined outspend the lower segments.

BoP Market in India
India – Annual Household Consumption Data, USD PPP million

Sector All Lowest Low Middle Higher
Others 98652 56405 31719 10070 458
Financial Services 406 263 109 33 0
ICT 33437 15366 13580 4346 144
Personal Care 24440 16133 6892 1382 34
Health 46289 28273 15249 2706 60
Education 36134 13222 18022 4853 37
Water Utility 2455 1046 1095 301 12
Transport 53338 23695 22017 6994 632
Energy 81807 58090 19729 3891 96
Housing 127399 34608 64407 27174 1210
Clothing and Footwear 61106 40754 16690 3589 72
Food and Beverages 455859 328098 109587 17802 372
All Sectors 1021321 615954 319097 83142 3128

In India, the 1206 million people in the BoP market (total of low and lowest segment) spent 47% on food and beverages. While the BoP spent USD 99 million (INR 6.4 billion) on housing at 9%, 8% was spent on energy, showing the huge potential for affordable solutions in these sectors. While clothing and footwear spending was at 6%, health and transport was at 5%. Education spend at 3% could be attributed to free government education, while financial services and water spending was close to nil, highlighting that these sectors are highly underserved.

 

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