Frugal products are often associated with simple and low-tech solutions. This, however, is not always true. In fact, some of the most advanced services in the world - like Google search or GPS navigation - cost little or nothing if you, like billions of people from Mumbai to Nairobi, have a smartphone and access to the Internet. Not only are services like Skype free; they also enable other services to be delivered in much more advanced ways. In this way, a technology like mobile Internet breaks the conventional link between high cost and high value to end-users. 

Nordic companies often produce high-value products with a focus on design and technology. While attractive and often innovative, they are also expensive and tend to target the needs and resources of the wealthy. In a global economy where emerging markets are of growing importance, Nordic companies frequently struggle to adjust products and services to the growing middle and low-income markets. Meeting the needs and aspirations of these segments calls for frugal solutions – in other words solutions, which focus more on “need to have” as opposed to “nice to have” – and with target price points and features that match mid and low-income customers.

In collaboration with the BOP lab at the Confederation of Danish Industry I have written a report for the Nordic Council examining how Western companies can use even very advanced technology as a way to create new frugal solutions for emerging market that offer much higher value for users at a very low price. 

You can download the report here.

The High Tech Low Cost is highly relevant for achieving UN’s Sustainable Development goals. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are ambitious and maybe even unrealistic if today’s products and services are used as a reference point. The good news is that companies around the world are pushing the boundaries of business as usual and designing new ways to address global challenges. Some of these leverage surprisingly advanced technology in their quest to develop affordable solutions.

Advanced technology will be a crucial part of achieveing the SDGs. Using high technology is not in contradiction to providing affordable solutions for the poorest. To the contrary, it is a precondition for achieving the SDGs.

In this report from DI, the confederation of Danish Industry, the High Tech Low Cost approach is presented as an important way for Danish Industry to contribute to achieveing the SDGs.

Du kan høre et indslag i Danmarks Radio program “Harddisken” på P1 om High Tech Low Cost tankegangen her. Indslaget startet 20 minutter inde i programmet.