Working Papers
  • Creating Value Through Network Of Women Subsistence Entrepreneurs: Learning From Rudi Initiative Of Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) In Gujarat
  • Author : Preeti Priya and Ila Patel
  • July - 2016

Subsistence marketplace literature views consumption and entrepreneurship as inseparable marketplace activities and argues for a viewpoint grounded in the "bottom-up" approach of wealth creation. Research has, however, focussed predominantly on how the private sector can contribute to poverty reduction and ignored innovative approaches of NGOs linking poor producers to mainstream markets and deploying market dynamics to achieve development objectives. This paper presents the case study of an innovative approach embraced by the Self Employed Women‟s Association (SEWA), a leading developmental NGO in Gujarat, devoted to promoting a network of women subsistence entrepreneurs known as RUDIbens. The latter, mainly hailing from low-income families, have created value not only for their customers but also for the larger rural community. RUDIbens, being direct marketing agents of the RUDI Multi Trading Company Limited (RMTCL), are primarily engaged in the distribution of value-added packaged agricultural produce to rural markets in Gujarat. The study is based on primary data collected from 102 entrepreneurs across four RMTCL business units in Gujarat. We examine this unique business-driven model, which addresses the macro-marketing concerns of developing a pro-poor marketing system through micro-marketing strategies of responding to the unmet needs of subsistence consumers. Our work has two objectives. The first is to identify the role of social capital in driving the marketing performance of a decentralised marketing system in subsistence marketplaces. The second, equally important, is to explore the nature and characteristics of economic, social, and psychological empowerment of women subsistence entrepreneurs. An analysis of this unique approach towards developing subsistence marketplaces brings to the surface enablers such as „market-oriented institutional design‟, „existing bonding social capital between people in the community‟, and „the bridging social capital provided by the promoting organisation to link the disparate social networks‟. Our qualitative exploration of RUDIbens provides ample evidence of their empowerment as an outcome of being part of SEWA‟s RUDI initiative. Building on the gleanings of the case study we argue that a decentralised marketing system focussing on linking producers and consumers within the same context could effectively lead to a sustainable marketing system in subsistence marketplaces.

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