From Subsistence to Sustainable: A Bottom-Up Perspective on the Role of Business in Poverty Alleviation

Madhubalan Viswanathan, Srinivas Sridharan

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The world today is divided into ‘have’s and ‘have not’s. Recently however, businesses have begun to focus on providing market solutions for the world’s poor. There is now a significant movement in business practice and research toward ‘monetizing’ these potential ‘markets,’ as chronicled in the Base of the Pyramid literature (Prahalad, 2005). This article will present an alternative but complementary micro-level perspective of consumers, small business owners or entrepreneurs, and marketplace behaviors. This perspective aims to understand and enable the subsistence marketplaces (Viswanathan and Rosa, 2007) of the world to move toward becoming sustainable marketplaces – a critical goal for business and humanity. Following a brief discussion of the state of the art in business approaches to poverty alleviation, this article will present the rationale for the sustainable marketplaces perspective, outline research, educational, and social initiatives that have emerged from taking this perspective, and discuss implications for businesses that aim to take leadership in poverty alleviation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9B09TB09
JournalIvey Business Journal
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2009

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