Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) Markets

The monikers of Bottom or Base of the Pyramid (BoP), and Subsistence Markets bring to our attention markets underpinned by extreme poverty but with potential for market development, social impact and improved livelihoods.

With over three billion people at the BoP living on less than $2.50 a day, the sum of $1.25 per day is considered to be the average earning of individuals in the poorest twenty countries worldwide. The BoP initiative views poverty lines as transient. Academic scholars, market practitioners, governing bodies, international institutions and NGOs who engage in work at the BoP are involved in developing and implementing new modes of poverty alleviation. In doing so, scholars seek to question how the roles of individuals and communities at the BoP manifest as both producers-consumers and how these multiple agencies can take advantage of co-creation and co-production to shape and link communities to markets using a bottom-up-approach.

Research interests

The focus of the work is on understanding how multiple interest groups use and perform the notion of the markets at the BoP.

Market making and emergent markets at the Bottom of the Pyramid

By building on the market studies approach we are also interested in understanding how BoP markets are constituted in practice. It is important here to understand how possibilities for creating and formulating markets in subsistence environments involve a range of practices and agencies, from entrepreneurs working at the BoP to NGOs seeking to develop new forms of intervention to improve living conditions. A practice approach offers a fresh perspective on how these multiple agencies shape markets at the BoP. The importance of collective action in impoverished communities is a key concern among agencies who attempt to influence the creation of markets for poverty alleviation. In line with a market studies approach, we are interested in how a practice based approach to the study of BoP markets from the bottom up can offer an alternative to traditional macro-level discussions of development. We are also interested in exploring how enterprise markets emerge at the BoP; the dynamics involved when entrepreneurs, values and theories interact to shape BoP markets; and the potentiality of export markets emerging at the BoP.

Research-led initiatives and impact at the BoP

AIM Capacity Building Workshop on 'Studying Markets & Marketing at the Bottom of the Pyramid’

In 2011, Dr Katy Mason, Dr Ronika Chakrabarti and Dr Ramendra Singh (Indian Institute for Management, Kolkata) organised a multi-disciplinary workshop on the theories and methods currently being deployed to explore Markets and Marketing at the BoP. The workshop allowed us to represent current research activities ongoing within the Marketing department to several interest groups consisting of both academics and practitioners both within (i.e. Geography, Sociology) and outside the University.

Marketing Theory special issue on BoP

Following on from the success of the AIM Capacity Building Workshop on 'Studying Markets & Marketing at the Bottom of the Pyramid’ Dr Katy Mason, Dr Ronika Chakrabarti and Dr Ramendra Singh will act a co-editors of a Special Issue of Marketing Theory on ‘Markets & Marketing at the BoP’ with a call for papers set for December 2013. The special issue aims to provide a forum from where different theoretical approaches to researching BoP markets can be explored and contrasted. The call for papers will be accompanied with a number of short essays from some attendees of the Lancaster workshop highlighting different aspects of BoP research. The authors of these essays are Luis Araujo (Lancaster University Management School), Thomas Birtchnell (University of Wollongong, Australia), James Faulconbridge (Lancaster University Management School), Maria Piacentini (Lancaster University Management School) and Kathy Hamilton (University of Strathclyde Business School).

Call for PhD students

We are interested in recruiting PhD students seeking to pursue research on BoP related markets and welcome stimulating proposals on this topic.

Current projects

  • Fishing and bamboo production in West Bengal India
  • Smallholder coffee growing and exchange in Africa