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Cover of book

Viswanathan, Madhu, Subsistence Marketplaces (2013), eBook


The book is available at the following websites:

Etext Inc - Publisher - Direct link to book

eBookpartnerships - Publisher
Amazon - Direct link to book
Apple - Direct link to book
Barnes and Noble Coming soon 
WH Smith Coming soon 
Overdrive Coming soon 

Hard copies are available at $15 plus shipping from Stipes Publishing at

Book Description

Publication Date: December 1, 2013
Out of the global population of over 7 billion, approximately 2.5 billion live on less than $2 a day. Understanding and alleviating poverty is crucial to the development of sustainable marketplaces. In this book, through an immersive and interactive experience, we aim to a) provide you a fundamental understanding of subsistence marketplaces, b) offer a sense of how solutions can be designed for these marketplaces, and c) explore how these solutions work for different entities. We created this material for multiple audiences—students, educators, managers, and policy makers—and we intend it as a starting point rather than a culmination of learning about subsistence marketplaces. You’ll find rich sets of materials to explore along the way through our web portal, including very comprehensive reports of yearlong projects that serve as intensive case studies, videos produced to provide insights about subsistence marketplaces, and immersion exercises to understand needs and generation ideas for solutions. We use the term subsistence to cover the broad range of low income, covering individuals who are barely making ends meet. Our perspective is bottom-up, beginning with a nuanced, micro-level understanding of behaviors and contexts. This contrasts with relatively macro-level approaches, such as macro-economic perspectives that examine country- and region-level trends or meso-level business strategy approaches, such as the bottom of the pyramid perspective, which examine issues of business strategy of organizations working in these contexts. Instead, we adopt a micro-level approach and begin with life circumstances at the individual and community level, with a particular focus on marketplace interactions. From this micro-level understanding, we stitch together aggregate-level insights about designing solutions, such as developing products or designing enterprises. Our work on subsistence marketplaces over the course of many years has created unique synergies between research, teaching, and social initiatives. In all three arenas, our work involves engagement of students, businesses, and social enterprises as well as a diverse set of faculty and campus entities across different disciplines. The material presented in this book draws on this rich set of experiences.


Table of Contents

Section I:

A Bottom-up Approach to Understanding Subsistence Marketplaces

Chapter 1

Voices of Subsistence Consumers and Entrepreneurs

Chapter 2

Understanding Needs, Products, and Markets for Subsistence Consumers

Chapter 3

Understanding Subsistence Entrepreneurs

Chapter 4

Consumer and Entrepreneurial Strengths and Vulnerabilities in Subsistence Marketplaces

Chapter 5

Drawing Macro-level Insights from Micro-level Understanding of Subsistence Marketplaces

Chapter 6

Understanding Subsistence Marketplaces

Chapter 7

Subsistence and Sustainability

Secton I Summary

Section II:

What This Means: Designing Solutions For Subsistence Marketplaces

Chapter 8

Product Development for Subsistence Marketplaces

Chapter 9

Marketing for Subsistence Marketplaces

Chapter 10

Designing Enterprise Models for Subsistence Marketplaces: Doing Well by Doing Good

Chapter 11

Research Methods for Subsistence Marketplaces

Chapter 12

Creating Educational Initiatives on Radically Different Contexts

Chapter 13

Social Initiatives in Subsistence Marketplaces: The Marketplace Literacy Program

Chapter 14

Lessons Learned in Moving From Basic Research to Practice in Subsistence Marketplaces

Secton II Summary


About the Author

Madhu Viswanathan is the Diane and Steven N. Miller Professor in Business at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he has been on the faculty since 1990. He earned a B. Tech in Mechanical Engineering (Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India, 1985), and a PhD in Marketing (University of Minnesota, 1990). His research programs are in two areas; measurement and research methodology, and literacy, poverty, and subsistence marketplace behaviors. He has authored books in both areas: Measurement Error and Research Design (Sage, 2005), Enabling Consumer and Entrepreneurial Literacy in Subsistence Marketplaces (Springer, 2008, in alliance with UNESCO), and Subsistence Marketplaces (etext and ebookpartnerships, 2013). He directs the Subsistence Marketplaces Initiative ( and has created unique synergies between research, teaching, and social initiatives. He teaches courses on research methods and on subsistence and sustainability. He founded and directs the Marketplace Literacy Project (, a non-profit organization, pioneering the design and delivery of marketplace literacy education to low-income consumers and subsistence marketplaces. He has received research, teaching, curriculum development, social entrepreneurship, humanitarian, leadership, public engagement, international achievement, and career achievement awards and his course on subsistence marketplaces was ranked one of the top entrepreneurship courses by Inc. magazine.


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