Abington Professor Studies Consumer Behavior at the Bottom of the Pyramid

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Dr. Gupta along with a colleague from a business school in Navi Mumbai during a visit to Lotus Colony in Govandi, Navi Mumbai, India.

Dr. Shruti Gupta, Associate Professor of Marketing at Penn State Abington spent her sabbatical leave in Fall 2012 in India. She divided her time between Mumbai and Kolkata where she interviewed individuals with a personal daily income of approximately $2-4 per day. This market segment has been labeled as the Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP). Companies believe that marketing to this group of consumers would help with poverty alleviation (by stimulating consumption) and provide a growth potential for multinationals that face saturated markets in the developed world. Most of the BoP is either self-employed in the informal retail sector or work as housekeepers, food service providers, rickshaw drivers, construction labor etc.

For her research, Dr. Gupta conducted in-depth interviews with 55 BoP consumers to learn about their identity with poverty, consumption decisions, marketplace exploitation and susceptibility to marketing stimuli, if any. In Mumbai, she interviewed individuals from Rafinagar and Lotus Colony in Govandi which is now part of the largest slum in Asia. Her interviewees from Govandi were mostly self-employed in hand embroidery and worked on a contract basis for suppliers. Inhabitants of Rafinagar, settled on a garbage dump site, were mostly trash and rag pickers. Her other interviewees for the study came from far flung slums in Kharghar and Vashi in Navi Mumbai. These men and women were mostly employed in housekeeping and janitorial work though some were also self-employed in the informal retail sector. Informants for the study conducted in Kolkata lived in distant villages and either worked as caregivers at a homeless shelter for young children or as domestic help for upper income households.

In the coming semesters, Dr. Gupta plans to publish her research findings in the form of several scholarly journal publications and conference presentations. Her first paper from the sabbatical research data titled, Despite Unethical Retail Practices, Consumers at the Bottom of the Pyramid Remain Loyal is under review with the 2013 Summer Educator’s Conference of the American Marketing Association, August 9-11, 2013 at Boston, Massachusetts.

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