Dear colleagues, 

The Sixth Subsistence Marketplaces Conference will be held June 17-19, 2016, at the University of Illinois, Champaign, IL.  We take the opportunity to share more information about our initiative.  Approximately 60 articles have been published in journal special issues/sections and an edited book stemming from the first five conferences (2006-14) and wider calls for submissions.

Our subsistence marketplaces initiative ( with a bottom-up approach to understanding the intersection of poverty and the marketplace has led to unique research, educational, and social initiatives and a biennial conference series with associated publications.  We have created a variety of educational materials along the way, as our offerings cover undergraduate, graduate and executive levels in business, an undergraduate course of engineers, and interdisciplinary courses for students from engineering, design and other areas.  

We are publicizing a web portal with a variety of content designed to provide access and allow educators to run exercises for classroom activities.  Our goal in putting together this web portal over several years is to have researchers, educators, practitioners, and students benefit from our experiences now spanning over 18 years. 

A very brief overview of the web portal is provided through a video at
Access to the web portal is at

The contents of the web portal include the following.

1. Day in the life videos 

6 videos (Urban Homemaker, Rural Homemaker, Urban Seller, Rural Seller, Urban environmental issues and Rural environmental issues)

2. Immersion Exercises/Try out our Poverty Simulation at

This includes a set of videos with pictures from subsistence contexts, related to domains such as agriculture, water, technology, child nutrition, different geographies, etc. They could be used as stimuli for students to understand the broader context and specific needs and to generate product ideas in what we have dubbed virtual immersion.

3. Shakti Rising (Movie)*

Contains 2 versions (52 min & 1 hour 24 min). Both are edited versions of the full length movie.  Portrays woman who empowers herself through the marketplace and provides very rich context for designing solutions and developing business plans.  

4. Subsistence interviews

Contains transcripts of interviews conducted with subsistence entrepreneurs and consumers. 

5. Business Cases

The business cases are based on comprehensive business plans developed by student groups in the course titled Sustainable Product and Market Development for Subsistence Marketplaces.

6. Assignments associated with educational materials

7. Book - "Understanding and Designing Solutions for Subsistence Marketplaces" - available since December, 2013, through etext for a very nominal price (to be determined but likely in $5 range with plans to use a portion to help subsistence communities through marketplace literacy educational initiatives).  The book is based on insights from research spanning over 15 years, educational offerings, and social initiatives.  A table of contents is present in the introductory video above.

8. Forum to share experiences on the use of these materials - on Facebook.

Please email s[log in to unmask] if you have any problems in accessing the materials. We will try to resolve them as soon as possible.

We thank you in advance for your help in improving this web portal.  Over time, we continue to add content from different geographies and covering different domains of subsistence (water, sanitation, etc.) as well as customizing the portal to different audiences.


Madhu Viswanathan and Srini Venugopal

*Shakti Rising evolved out of conversations between Madura Microfinance, a non banking finance company operating across Tamil Nadu, India, that provides small loans to 400,000 rural women along with products that expand market access, and Usha Rajeswari, a documentary filmmaker. Madura pushed on with the concept of a business training film, teaming up with a non profit called the Marketplace Literacy Project, founded by Madhu
Viswanathan, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.The Marketplace Literacy Project provided business training through an innovative approach to this audience and Madhu had spent several years
researching subsistence marketplace entrepreneurs and had developed extensive curriculum. Working on the one hand with women whose lives inspired the film, and on the other hand with Madhu and his team, Rajeshewari wove a story and script that captured the essence of the messages of entrepreneurship. The name Shakti Pirakkudhu means in the Tamillanguage,'a new strength is born'. In English this has been translated as Shakti Rising. The movie has received an Honorable Mention at the Los Angeles Movie Awards (  The movie is now the basis for a teacherless video-based educational program to teach marketplace literacy that has been launched in the state of Tamil Nadu, India, through a collaboration between Madura Microfinance and the Marketplace Literacy Project.

Madhu Viswanathan
Diane and Steven N. Miller Professor in Business
183 Wohlers Hall, 1206 South Sixth Street, Champaign, IL 61820 
Phone: 217-333-4550; Fax: 217-244-7969; email: [log in to unmask] 
Subsistence Marketplaces Initiative:
Non-profit website:

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