Marketing interactions in subsistence marketplaces: A bottom-up approach to designing public policy

Madhubalan Viswanathan, Srinivas Sridharan, Robin Ritchie, Srinivas Venugopal, Kiju Jung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In many developing countries, buyer-seller exchange among the poor occurs mainly in unique, socially embedded environments that are essentially informal markets. This article describes the findings of an in-depth, in situ study of an informal-economy subsistence marketplace in South India. Through interviews with consumers and owners of survivalist microenterprises, the authors identify seven themes that characterize the subsistence marketplace context, buyer-seller interactions within them, and specific elements of exchange. Drawing on these findings, along with theories of social capital and consumption in poverty, they make the case that business policy in developing countries should aim to empower subsistence entrepreneurs and consumers, embrace emergent solutions, help build bridges between informal and formal economies, and adopt a bottom-up orientation to policy development. The study's findings offer important insights into policy that can help microenterprises of the informal economy become engines of economic growth in these countries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-177
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Public Policy and Marketing
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Bottom of the pyramid
  • Informal economy
  • Marketing exchange
  • Public policy
  • Social capital
  • Subsistence marketplaces

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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