According to experts, BOP markets consist of around 3 billion people with less than $2 income per day. BOP markets thus consist of individuals (consumers or producers) who merely survive at subsistence levels, and form a dominant proportion of the populace in emerging markets including South Asia, BRIC nations and sub-Saharan Africa.
Such markets are believed to be ecologically, economically and socially sustainable in the long term. However, marketing to BOP consumers or by BOP producers has a unique set of challenges. Low levels of literacy and education, low purchasing power and a constant struggle to make ends meet characterise such markets.
However, the lessons from BOP markets can sometimes be amazingly overwhelming. For example, one of the world’s poorest nations, Rwanda, has had 92% of the nation covered under health insurance for last 11 years, and premiums cost only around $2 a year. On the contrary, one of the world’s richest nations, the USA, has in comparison the most expensive healthcare system, and almost half of its people are either uninsured or under-insured.
Another example is that of Grupo Salinas, a group of companies created by Mexican entrepreneur Ricardo Salinas. The company recently launched a comprehensive consumer financial literacy initiative by distributing 2.7 million copies of comics to educate consumers at the bottom of the pyramid. Similarly, SELCO Solar Pvt. Ltd, a social enterprise established in 1995 by a few engineers in India, provides sustainable energy solutions to poor households and businesses. It has sold, serviced and financed more than 120,000 solar panels to consumers in BOP markets.
Given the context of subsistence markets, many scholars have emphasised the need for development of the BOP markets in terms of creation of the capacity to consume; development of new goods, services, dignity and choice for the poor; and the importance of developing trust between buyer and seller. Several principles have been suggested, including finding sustainable solutions, understanding functionality, innovating processes and deskilling work, educating low-literacy consumers, designing for hostile infrastructure, and designing innovative distribution chains.
The aim of this special issue is to discover approaches and practices relating to marketing by BOP producers, or marketing to poor consumers. The issue will aim to develop new theories and extend existing theories through empirical examination, and/or conceptual advancements with strong implications for managers. It therefore focuses on cross- and inter-disciplinary research using theoretical frameworks and empirical analyses.
Suitable topics include but are not limited to:
- What are the characteristics of BOP markets and subsistence consumers?
- How do we design and deliver value for subsistence consumers?
- What social and marketing innovations are required to serve BOP consumers?
- What successful marketing companies are practising to serve BOP consumers?
- What new business models are required to become successful in BOP markets?
- How products should be designed for such marketplaces?
- What should the nature of distribution channels for successful products be?
Submission of manuscripts: 28 February, 2014 (extended)