2014 Conference

About This Event

Organized by the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, the fifth Subsistence Marketplace Conference will be held at the I-Hotel in Champaign, Illinois.

Subsistence marketplaces consist of consumer and entrepreneur communities living at a range of low income levels, and are concentrated in developing countries and regions such as Brazil, India, China, Vietnam, and Sub-Saharan Africa. In the last decade, the Subsistence Marketplaces Conference has been a leading forum for evolving and sharing research and fostering best practices in these communities.

In its fifth edition, the 2014 conference is titled to highlight consumption and entrepreneurship while emphasizing diverse geographies and substantive domains of subsistence. Specific themes include consumption and conservation, entrepreneurship, substantive domains of subsistence, diverse geographies, social innovation, and curricular innovation. The theme of consumption and conservation emphasizes the need to understand the environmental issues that impinge on day-to-day living and basic needs. The theme of entrepreneurship covers the gamut from survival and subsistence to thriving and transformational.

Specific substantive domains of subsistence such as water, food, sanitation, and energy will be of particular focus, with each of these vital life realms representing significant challenges and opportunities. This theme is particularly germane for work conducted in a variety of disciplines encompassing the social and physical sciences. The theme of diverse geographies highlights the need to study, compare, and contrast a range of subsistence contexts, across regions around the world. Cutting-edge research and practice relating to social enterprises in subsistence marketplaces are highlighted through the theme of social innovation. The theme of curricular innovation will focus on modules, courses, and programs that bring subsistence marketplaces into the classroom.

Call For Papers


Conference Chair

Madhu Viswanathan – University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA


Theme Chairs

Consumption and Conservation
Chris Blocker, Colorado State University, and Roland Gau, Univ. of Texas, El Paso
Geoffrey Kistruck, York University and Srinivas Sridharan, Monash University
Substantive Domains of Subsistence
Jeremy Guest, University of Illinois
Diverse Geographies
Esi Elliot, Suffolk University, and Kelly Martin, Colorado State University
Social Innovation
Raed Elaydi, Roosevelt University, and Ben Lough, University of Illinois
Research Methods
Oana Branzei, University of Western Ontario, and Lisa Jones Christenson, University of North Carolina
Curricular Innovation
Niels Bilou, University of Western Ontario, and Benet DeBerry-Spence, University of Illinois, Chicago
Junior Scholar Mentorship
Srinivas Venugopal, University of Illinois


Poster Session Chair

Ishva Minefee, University of Illinois, Urbana-CHampaign, USA


Plenary and Panelists

Othon Garcia, Bitacora, Mexico

Othon Garcia founded Bitacora Social Mexico in April 2010 where, with a network of 130 anthropologists and a multidisciplinary analyses cabinet, he elaborates social-academic studies that reckon with a strategic interpretation specially designed for those who must make decisions in a high level position.

Today, Bitacora Social expounds different social phenomena that go into detail, as it has never been done before, about the understanding of society and its different groups. Bitacora Social is currently operating within field capacity in eight other countries in Latin-America in addition to Mexico (Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Brazil).

Some of the top Social Clients of Bitacora include TV Azteca, Compartamos Banco, Danone, Effem/Mars, Kimberly Clark, Papalote Museo del Niño, PepsiCo, Carbones del Cerrejón, TeamFoods, and other big consumer-product companies and NGOs.

In March 2000, Othon founded Los Niños Cuentan (Kids Count). This company became the standard of excellence in qualitative investigation, receiving the Best in Research in Mexico award in 2002. Since 2004, Othon has been working as an independent Strategic & Marketing Consultant for more than 45 brands in 18 different countries. He studied International Relations at Iberoamericana University in Mexico City and History in the United States, the Soviet Union and Norway.

Othon has two children, Tiago and Laila. He has five dogs, and for seven years he drove as a pilot the “Carrera Panamericana”. He is an active member of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and his dream is that one day he will retire to a small farm in Portugal.


S. Sudhakar

Sudhakar has been part of the marketplace Literacy Project since June 2010. Over the past 6 years, he has worked at the grassroots level for a number of social enterprises operating in rural areas of Tamil Nadu, India. Currently, he is part of the project team creating video-based learning material targeted at subsistence entrepreneurs and consumers. He is also involved in a research project exploring the evolution of subsistence enterprise ecosystems.


R. Venkatesan

Since 2001, Venkat has been a pioneer in enabling marketplace literacy among low-literate, low-income individuals in India. Prior to his work with Marketplace Literacy Project, Venkat worked for the Guild of Service, on an international livelihood development project for below-poverty-line individuals. In his work with the Subsistence Marketplaces Initiative, Venkat has led multiple research projects, qualitative and quantitative alike. He has also been instrumental in designing and facilitating numerous international student immersion trips to India. Venkat’s passion for enabling consumer and entrepreneurial literacy sees him wearing multiple hats, that of a researcher and a teacher. His leadership in creating video based lessons on marketplace literacy has enabled hundreds of participants to benefit from the program. Capturing his vast experience in the domain, he has co-authored a book titled “Enabling Consumer and Entrepreneurial Literacy in Subsistence Marketplace”. Venkat’s commitment to research has been a constant source of support for many PhD students of UIUC, studying various aspects of subsistence marketplaces.


K. Vijayakumar

K Vijayakumar (Viji) has been inspirational contributor in the field of marketplace literacy for several years. His interest in social work was kindled while working for the Guild of Service Plan International. His passion has driven him to work as an outside support for the subsistence marketplace initiative. In 2011, he joined the organization fulltime and has since been working as a research associate for the Subsistence Marketplaces Initiative at the University of Illinois. He has played a central role in designing video based training program for consumer and entrepreneur literacy. He is also a strong source of support for doctoral students from UIUC working in the arena of subsistence marketplaces. He has played a crucial role in designing and implementing international student immersion trips to India. Viji has a passion for research and has played a leading role in localizing and administering numerous surveys and field experiments in challenging contexts


John F. Clark

John F. Clarke Professor of Practice, A. B. Freeman School of Business, Tulane University. Associate Dean, Graduate Programs and MBA Faculty Director, A. B. Freeman School of Business, Tulane University.

Clarke teaches courses on a range of topics including International Business, Sustainability, Entrepreneurship, New Venture Planning, and Product Development. An interdisciplinary collaborator he has degrees and work experience in engineering, sciences, and business. Clarke has teaching and curriculum development experience in several colleges including business, engineering, and liberal arts and sciences. He is currently teaching entrepreneurship and new product development to MBAs at Tulane.

He has work experience in 11 countries in Europe, Asia, and North America, and has led students on international immersion experiences to countries including China, India, Brazil, South Korea, Argentina, UK, South Africa, and Israel. He has also developed international programs with leading international institutions, in Asia and South America.

Clarke has over ten years of experience at a global management consulting company. He worked directly with senior executives in North America, Europe, and Asia and has significant experience designing and implementing large-scale change initiatives.

He received his B.Eng in Material Science and PhD in Physics from the University of Leeds, U.K. and also has an MBA from the University of Illinois.


Ramadhani Kupaza – OIKOS East Africa
Tara Thiagarajan – Madura Microfinance, India


Tentative Program Outline


1-4 pm – Preconference Session for Junior Scholars (please email srinivas.venugopal@gmail.com by March 31 to participate)

5-630 pm – Poverty Simulation

9-10 pm – Movie Screening


830 am – Conference Introduction

9am-1230 pm – Concurrent Sessions

1230-2 pm – Round Table Sessions Over Lunch

2-5 pm – Plenary Sessions


830 am-1230 pm – Concurrent Sessions

1230-2 pm – Round Table Sessions Over Lunch

2-3 pm – Discussion and Short Presentations – Where Have We Been? Where Do We Go from Here?

3 pm – Conference Concludes


Presentation Format

TBD – emphasizing interactions – Short 8-10 minute presentations with limited slides and at least half of each session devoted to discussion; summary of insights recorded through the conference for discussion


Planning Your Trip

Dress Code

Business Casual



Conference Venue

• I Hotel, Champaign

Conference rates available at:

• I Hotel
• Hilton Garden Inn (15 minutes walk)


Conference Sponsors

Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership, University of Illinois
Office of Public Engagement, University of Illinois
ADM Institute, University of Illinois
Stellner Fund, College of Business, University of Illinois
International Programs and Studies, University of Illinois