Marketplace Literacy as a Pathway to a Better World: Evidence from Field Experiments in Low-Access Subsistence Marketplaces

Madhubalan Viswanathan, Nita Umashankar, Arun Sreekumar, Ashley Goreczny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Multinational companies increasingly focus on subsistence marketplaces, given their enormous market potential. Nevertheless, their potential is untapped because subsistence consumers face extreme constraints. The authors contend that subsistence consumers need marketplace literacy to participate effectively and beneficially in marketplaces. Marketplace literacy entails the knowledge and skills that enable them to participate in a marketplace as both consumers and entrepreneurs. This is crucial for subsistence consumers, as they often must function in both roles to survive. Previous research, however, has not empirically examined the influence of marketplace literacy on well-being or marketing outcomes related to well-being. To address this gap, the authors implemented three large-scale field experiments with approximately 1,000 people in 34 remote villages in India and Tanzania. They find that marketplace literacy causes an increase in psychological well-being and consumer outcomes related to well-being (e.g., consumer confidence, decision-making ability), especially for subsistence consumers with lower marketplace access, and it causes an increase in entrepreneurial outcomes related to well-being (e.g., starting a microenterprise) for those with higher marketplace access. Overall, this research generates practical implications for the use of marketplace literacy as a pathway to a better world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-129
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Marketing
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2021


  • consumer well-being
  • entrepreneurship
  • field experiment
  • marketplace access
  • marketplace literacy
  • randomized control trial
  • subsistence contexts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Marketing

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