300 House

24 Jan 2011, Posted by Rupam in awareness,design, 5 Comments

To some of us, $300 means a pair of Cole Haan shoes or a designer leather handbag or an air ticket from NY to Miami, but to another really large group of people that co-exist in the same world $300 = 5 months of pay.

For that group of people shelling out even $300 may seem impossible.

300 House is a project to design a commercially viable housing solution for the slums and villages of developing countries. The project started initially as an idea that Vijay Govindarajan (Professor at Dartmouth) blogged about in HBR in August 2010. He received such an overwhelming response to the concept that he along with Christian Sarkar decided to see how far they can go into making this idea a reality.

They are using crowd-sourcing to build on the “concept”. One can go to and post their thoughts and ideas. In addition, they have slew of industry pioneers writing on the Harvard Business Review blog about the possible challenges this project may face in different areas such as design, finance, energy, co-creation, marketing, corporate, performance and how to approach those issues.

The subject is looked at through the lense of “reverse innovation”. In the words of Govindarajan, who coined the term “Reverse Innovation”, a reverse innovation is very simply, any innovation likely to be adopted first in the developing world. Increasingly we see companies developing products in countries like China and India and then distribute them globally.

Being a marketer and someone who aspires to work on a project that incorporates reverse innovation, a point I thought offered great insight to those designing this home is a comment by Seth Godin – About 2 billion people survive on a mere a $2 a day and to that group of people it’s all about “survival”. He says “when someone in poverty buys a device needs to pay for itself”. To put that in perspective – if each of these homes had a solar roof that not only generated enough power for the home itself, but also to sell back to the grid (assuming the grid exists in India), the home owner could afford to buy the home and make money off of it.

According to United Nations, currently about 1 billion people live in slums around the world. Needless to say if the 300 house becomes a reality, it can have a huge impact on many lives after all it is one of the 3 basic necessities for survival.


The Challenge

The Financial Challenge

The Design Challenge

The Energy Challenge

The Co-Creation Challenge

The Marketing Challenge

The Performance Challenge

The Corporate Challenge

Some other really interesting projects:

Chulha by Phillips A stove with hazardous side affects used by millions of low income people was re-designed to provide a much safer alternative.

Hindustan Unilever’s project Shakti in India Economic development through the micro enterprise.

Pee Poople The Peepoo is a personal single use toilet, that sanitizes human excreta shortly after defecation, preventing the faeces from contaminating the immediate and larger environment. The toilet is a high technology product for a low economy. As with the original Tetra-Pak, it uses a minimum of material while providing maximum hygiene.
Recognizing consumer needs, the Peepoo is formulated from a bottom up perspective putting the user’s need first. Ergonomically designed to be easy and hygienic to use, simple and rational to produce, and thus possible to be sold to groups with the weakest purchasing power, the Peepoo offers a sanitation choice for both individuals and society at large.

Micromax – A company that creates phones with an oversized battery, a small screen, and tweaked electronics that made the phone run for as long as five days, and on standby. For the audience looking to buy a $300 house, a X1i+ phone seems to be the perfect option.

Business Week Article on Micromax

Sources: Harvard Business Review,, Business Week, Micromax, Hindustan Unilever, Philips, Mario Batali, Marc Jacobs, NYSC


Tweets that mention CO-OP blog | 300 House —

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Christian Sarkar, CO-OP. CO-OP said: What does $300 mean to you @vgovindarajan @christiansarkar [...]

January 24, 2011 10:27 pm. Reply.

telemall pakistan

nice sharing good

October 9, 2014 5:36 am. Reply.

Dave Drwencke

Great delivery. Sound arguments. Keeep up the amazing

October 15, 2014 6:31 pm. Reply.

Naaptol pakistan

Nice Artical for post

May 14, 2015 3:12 am. Reply.

Telebrand pakistan

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May 14, 2015 6:02 am. Reply.

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