Markets and marketing at the bottom of the pyramid

Mason, Katherine Jane and Chakrabarti, Ronika and Singh, Ramendra (2017) Markets and marketing at the bottom of the pyramid. Marketing Theory, 17 (3). pp. 261-270. ISSN 1470-5931

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Concern with the role of markets in the lives of the poor has been growing consistently in management and marketing academic communities over the past two decades. Since the publication of CK Prahalad’s HBR article, and bestselling book (Prahalad, 2006; Prahalad and Hammond, 2002), an increasing number of scholars have turned their attention to understanding markets as a means to alleviate poverty and engaging the poor in economic life. The importance of markets and how they are performed is thought to be central to making better and more inclusive societies and to improving the lives of those at the bottom of pyramid (BoP). Indeed, those adopting a market studies approach would argue that ‘building markets is one of the most ordinary ways to produce society’ (Geiger et al., 2014: 1) – putting markets at the centre of the everyday practices of the poor. In concerning ourselves with BoP markets, we assert a very specific aim – to understand how market configurations that take into account the various concerns associated with unfolding economic transactions come about (Chakrabarti and Mason, 2014). Specifically, we start from the premise that (1) consumers cannot consume unless they are able to produce – an activity that generates the means for market engagement and consumption (Karnani, 2007; Viswanathan et al., 2010), (2) market practices are always situated in the particularities of time and place (Kjellberg and Helgesson, 2007) and as such cannot be divorced from histories and associations and (3) the globalisation of trade and markets entangles multiple and complex social–political–economic worlds in chains of practices that stretch across the globe (cf. London and Hart, 2011; Maurer, 2012). This approach calls into question extant conceptualisations of BoP markets as purely economic constructs. As Geiger et al. (2014: 3) explain, ‘Rather than simply replacing or overlaying social bonds with economic transactions, markets initiate a plurality of social relations of a new kind, bearing matters of concern that should be carefully monitored. They invite us neither to reject the economic dynamics of markets nor to try to purify them from any remaining social relations, but rather to search for modalities of organization that are all the more relevant for the implementation of market exchange’, one might add that this is pertinent – in any given BoP context. Indeed, it is notable that market actors often ignore deviant behaviours that result from balancing normative compliance with valuing the role of community in the practice of markets (Christensen et al., 2001; Layton, 2009). Such conceptualisations enable us to ‘…deconstruct the current axiomatic treatment of transaction-centric markets and to reconstruct the market as a socially embedded institution in which community ties are formed and sustained’ (Varman and Costa, 2008: 141). In this brief editorial, we draw on this unfolding understanding of what markets are and how they work to consider how we might re-conceptualise BoP markets, where we might find them and how our concerns about BoP markets are beginning to shape understanding, theorising and action.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Marketing Theory
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The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Marketing Theory, 17 (3), 2017, © SAGE Publications Ltd, 2017 by SAGE Publications Ltd at the Marketing Theory page: on SAGE Journals Online: Katy Mason is professor of Markets, Marketing and Management at Lancaster University Management School, UK. Her research focuses on how managers make and shape markets, and the market devices they use to enrol and create boundaries with others. Her interest in bottom of the pyramid (BoP) comes from understanding how people organise at the BoP. Her work has been published in Journal Management Studies, Management Learning, Industrial Marketing Management, Long Range Planning, European Journal of Marketing and Journal of Marketing Management. Address: Lancaster University Management School, Department of Marketing, Lancaster, LA1 4YX, UK. [email:] Ronika Chakrabarti is a lecturer in Marketing at Lancaster University Management School. Her research interests in bottom of the pyramid (BoP) and subsistence markets are situated within her theoretical interest on market creation and sustainable development in informal economies. She is deeply interested how BoP markets are being designed and what market making practices and devices are being fostered by multiple agencies. Her work has been published in Industrial Marketing Management, Journal of Advertising Research, The International Journal of Human Resource Management and International Market in Review. Address: Lancaster University Management School, Department of Marketing, Lancaster, UK. [email:] Ramendra Singh is associate professor of marketing at Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Calcutta, India. He obtained his PhD from IIM Ahmedabad, India, and MBA from Xavier Labour Relations Institute, Jamshedpur, India. His research has been published in reputed international journals such as Marketing Theory, Journal of Business Ethics, Industrial Marketing Management and Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing. He has worked for several years in sales and marketing positions in several companies such as Indian Oil Corporation, Exxon Mobil, SRF Limited and ICICI Bank. Address: Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, D.H. Road, Joka, Kolkata-700104, India. [email:]
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?? bop marketsmarkets at the bottom of the pyramidmarket practicesmarketing ??
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23 Jan 2018 16:22
Last Modified:
06 Jul 2024 23:56