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Business models sustaining subsistence economies: Evidence from India
Published in Emerald Publishing
Volume: 12
Issue: 3
Pages: 302 - 316


The purpose of this paper is to analyse interventions of various forms of organisations operating with the objective of connecting subsistence entrepreneurs (SEs) with the formal economy. This work also attempts to understand and analyse the transformational role played by these organisations. Finally, the paper aims to arrive at a conceptual framework for organisations interested in playing a transformational role.


The paper deals with subsistence entrepreneurship and business models for subsistence economies. It draws from case studies of six organisations operating with the objective to connect subsistence entrepreneurs with formal economy. Each case chosen is unique with respect to the organisational form it takes to achieve the objective. However, a lot of similarity can be seen in the components of the business model adopted by these organisations.


Organisations which emerge keeping the context of rural producers in mind survive and support SEs in the long run. SEs need not always get converted into transformational entrepreneurs. However, with the help of organisations which collectivise SEs, they can interact with formal economy. Such organisations help large numbers of SEs to sustain and possibly move out of subsistence status over a period of time. These organisations have to fill the voids left by government or market institutions so as to create enabling conditions for SEs to thrive. Despite the efforts of the organisations, it is not possible for all SEs to move out of their subsistence status and existence in informal markets. However, it is possible in case of some SEs at least, as the institutional support gives them more certainty in incomes.

Research limitations/ implications

The paper does not take a business model adopted by government institution for the purpose of analysis.

Practical implications

The paper offers practical suggestions for organisations interested in collectivising SEs with the aim to improve their returns from market transactions.


The paper offers a conceptual framework to enrich the understanding of role played by organisations working towards collectivising SEs. It adds to the debate of subsistence entrepreneurship and transformational entrepreneurship. It elaborates the elements of social capital created by these organisations at the meso level. Finally, it re-emphasises the strengths of informal economy to support the customer value proposition for formal markets.

About the journal
JournalData powered by TypesetSociety and Business Review
PublisherData powered by TypesetEmerald Publishing
Open AccessNo