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The View from Here: Living Near the Base of the Pyramid

By Roberto Holguin

The San Angel district of Mexico City where I work is home to some of the richer and more traditional families in the city. It’s a very pretty area with a nice colonial plaza near the center. On weekends foreign and local tourists come to relax and shop at the Saturday bazaar in our plaza. As my work week starts though, I see people in the plaza who are considered to belong to the base of the pyramid (BOP). Every Monday, dozens of workers gather in the plaza in hopes of finding a job for the day.

This area has many of the elements that define places like Mexico City: economic, social, and cultural differences, and even tourists, in close proximity. I view this as a representative fraction of what goes on in my country. These dynamic and contrasting interactions take place all across the country (and in the rest of Latin America). Our plaza is a good place to get a sense of what happens at the base of the pyramid, and what happens when trying to design for it. 

Here are some insights and general principles to consider when designing for this segment.

In countries like mine there are numerous opportunities. We are just beginning to develop an understanding of this group of people, and we are just beginning to consider the base of the pyramid as a viable business segment. If you want to see the contrasts, the San Angel plaza is a good place to start. UX

Roberto Holguin is director of operations (COO) of Insitum, with fifteen years of experience in design research projects. He has created concepts and strategies for a diverse range of clients from Latin America including Telmex, Intel, and Nokia. In addition to his professional activities, he lectures at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City.  He holds a BA in graphic design and a Master’s degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

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This article was originally printed in User Experience Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 4, 2009.
http://www.usabilityprofessionals.org/upa_publications/past_issues/2009-4.html.

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