Growing your business by targeting nonconsumers


Manish Shah is the former president of Midwest Law Printing in Chicago. He also worked at Intel, PwC and Motorola. He has an MBA from Kellogg Graduate School of Management, and a MS in Computer Science from Illinois Institute of Technology. He can be reached at

By Manish Shah
Whether you are running a for-profit company or a NGO, targeting nonconsumers is your ticket to growth. Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovator’s Dilemma, defines nonconsumers as “people, who lack the ability, wealth or access to conveniently and easily accomplish an important job.”
In India there are 50 million consumers, who rely on two-wheelers for transportation. These consumers were priced out of the car market for decades. Tata introduced the affordable Nano to address the needs of these nonconsumers. The Nano has been a huge seller given the pent up demand for low priced cars in India.

The Nano addresses the wealth aspect of nonconsumers, whereas Sangath, a NGO, is geared towards improving mental health of nonconsumers, who do not have access to psychiatrists. India has over a billion people but fewer than 4000 psychiatrists. Most of these psychiatrists are based in urban areas. Dr. Vikram Patel, founder of Sangath, has reinvented mental health care by making it accessible to people in remote villages. His organization hires high school or college graduates without any medical background and trains them as health assistants or health counselors. A health assistant diagnoses patients with mental illness and refers them immediately to a health counselor. The health counselor then prescribes talk therapy, yoga and medication to the patient. The results of this non-traditional approach to mental health care have been impressive. Patients not only get the benefit of a good diagnosis but also receive overall better care because the counselors spend more time with them.

MagCloud, a new service unveiled by Hewlett-Packard, addresses all three problems that afflict a nonconsumer-lack of ability, lack of money and lack of convenience. Traditional printing companies charge thousands of dollars upfront for a few hundred copies of a magazine. Narrow interest magazine publishers do not have the resources to run a few copies of their magazine given the large upfront cost. MagCloud makes it easier and cheaper to print a magazine. It charges only 20 cents per page plus shipping. Unlike traditional printers, MagCloud accepts the documents in PDF and permits its customers to make last minute changes. Publishers can sell the magazine on MagCloud and their own websites for whatever price they set.

Nonconsumers can be a source of the next big growth opportunity for a company. Therefore, the time spent identifying nonconsumers and developing products and services to address their needs is time well spent.

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