Product Development for the BoP: Insights on Concept and Prototype Development from University-Based Student Projects in India


  • Madhubalan Viswanathan,

  • Srinivas Sridharan

  • Both authors contributed equally to the development of this manuscript. We offer our thanks for the support and involvement of a variety of nongovernmental, community-based, and commercial organizations in South India, and the invaluable assistance of S. Gajendiran and R. Venkatesan who have been core members of our team. This work was supported by grants to the first author from the Center for International Business Education and Research at the University of Illinois, which is funded by the United States Department of Education (P220A60003-98, P220A020011, and P220A060028), and a grant to the first author from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance. Support was also provided by the Department of Business Administration, the Department of Industrial & Enterprise Systems, the College of Business, the Campus Research Board, the Academic for Entrepreneurial Leadership, and the Hoeft Technology and Management Program at the University of Illinois and several organizational sponsors.

Address correspondence to: Madhubalan Viswanathan, College of Business, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1206 South Sixth Street, Champaign, Illinois 61820. E-mail Tel: 217-333-4550; Fax: 217-244-7969.


In recent years, market-based approaches have been proposed for the base of the pyramid (BoP). However, the literature offers little theoretical or practical guidelines for innovative product development for what are radically new market contexts for most businesses in advanced economies. Considering that product development is a fundamental activity in a market economy, and that much BoP consumer welfare potentially arises from innovative and affordable goods and services that can solve critical life needs, this is a substantial gap in knowledge. This paper attempts to address this gap by using an analysis of 13 year-long university projects on BoP-focused concept and prototype development conducted between 2006 and 2010. An inventory of research propositions is developed that identifies factors necessary for effective product development for BoP markets. Implications for new product development research and practice are discussed.