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Small Innovations Are a Big Deal
CNBC.com | October 12, 2011 | 03:55 PM EDT

As the mature world struggles through both recession and recovery, more than 75 percent of the growth of global output will come from the emerging markets. But with so much need that must be met, businesses with that “bigger is always better” mentality are struggling with how to capture all of the opportunity.

Meet ChotuKool . A refrigerator with no compressor, it is tiny, weighing in at less than 18 pounds. It can run on a 12-volt battery and can be yours for about $75. Most importantly, you can get it in some of the most hard-to-reach rural areas of India. “Chotu” means “the small one” in colloquial Hindi. It may well be the Next Big Small Thing.

In many ways, ChotuKool is like any other new product. Its design, price, features and eye-popping red color were determined the old-fashioned way: through iterations with focus groups of target customers. But when that target is a woman in an outlying village, research can be both difficult and expensive. To solve the problem, ChotuKool’s makers piggy-backed on another “small” innovation, the microfinance network, and returned to that same network when the product was ready for sale.

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