Note: Special issue conference will be held at Tongji University, Shanghai, China, December 19–20, 2012.

A ten page paper proposal should be submitted by October 31, 2012 (see submission process below)

Over the past two decades, many Asian economies have grown dramatically with an average growth of about 8% per year throughout the region. This dramatic economic growth has allowed large numbers of people to move out of poverty. However, it is increasingly clear that while there has been dramatic improvement in the overall rates of poverty in many nations in Asia, there are large numbers of people still in poverty in spite of the fast economic growth. For example, China continues to have over 300 million people that live in severe poverty while India has over 600 million. The large number of the severely poor people has increasingly been recognized as an issue for both governments and for businesses throughout Asia.

Governments and businesses understand that for continued economic growth, there needs to be political stability. For governments the presence of large numbers of the severely poor whose lives do not seem to be able to improve despite rapid economic growth offers a potential challenge to the needed political stability. However, businesses increasingly also see the large number of people in severe poverty are not only an issue for social concern, but also as a potentially large untapped market of consumers for goods and services. This ability to provide products to those desperately poor may in fact be easiest for firms in Asia as they internationalize and understand these markets. Asian multinational and entrepreneurial firms’ environmental setting includes such potential customers where major North American and European firms typically have no major access or understanding of this setting that is immediately at hand.

The recognition of the desperately poor as a potential market will not only lead to  new sales for these firms but also offers a means to help those individuals in desperate poverty to create assets and prosperity. As a result, there is a fresh recognition that business in fact may offer the greatest single potential means to move individuals out of poverty. The generation of greater economic activity among the desperately poor may provide the means for the poor to change their own lives rather than the government or other groups doing for them. This has led to a focus by both governments and businesses to seek to encourage greater economic activity among the desperately poor. This activity includes not only business seeking to enter these settings but governments also looking to support other activities by non-profit organizations (NGOs) that generate business among the poor.

Management scholars have been slow to identify and examine an array of questions associated with the increasing entry of international business into settings of desperate poverty and the actions of government to support economic activity among the desperately poor. We believe that through poverty–business focused research, scholars can better understand businesses’ role in both helping Asia to reduce poverty, and also generating profit for companies as they reach out to serve these large untapped communities of consumers.

This APJM Special Issue seeks to provide a robust analysis of poverty and business in the Asian context. We want to generate new insights on poverty in the Asian context and how business can help to move people out of desperate poverty. Overall, the editors’ belief is that as business helps to generate greater economic activity in settings of severe poverty they will help to solve poverty as individuals in severe poverty are able to both generate greater incomes and accumulate greater assets as they participate with those large firms in those activities. Thus, a rich range of topics can be included in the special issue as we look at new and innovative activities that help to address these issues. 

For example, we hope to receive research that will expand the limited research on major corporations serving the “bottom of the pyramid” or “subsistence markets” and how firms create such innovative methods to serve these markets. In addition, we are also interested in seeing articles that address how bringing business skills and ideas to settings of severe poverty can address the issues of poverty. There are also new technologies that help to solve the issues of poverty such as cell-phone banking. How do firms developing such technologies ensure that their products meet the needs of very different customer than have been typically addressed? In addition, how government policy can encourage more economic activity in settings of severe poverty, micro lending by governmental and NGOs, and the role of informal firms are also encouraged.

All else being equal, we encourage interdisciplinary teams to explore the above issues and also encourage diversity of thinking to create the path-breaking insights that we seek. Research questions of potential interest for this special issue could include, but are not limited to:

1.   There are numerous enterprising individuals in Asia living in severe poverty with innovative ideas but without sufficient access to financial resources. What can be done to facilitate the transition of these innovative ideas to generate business venture growth in Asia? What is the role of microfinance in the effort to address this shortage of financial resources?

2.   Many individuals in poverty form informal firms—firms that do not conduct legal activities but which do not register with the government. What is the nature of these firms? How does being an informal firm enable or restrict the ability of such firms for both survival and growth.

3.   What is the role of networks and alliances by individuals in Asia living in severe poverty as they seek to either found or grow a business?

4.   When firms seek to serve those that live in desperate poverty what are the strategic actions of the business that generate the greatest success? What are the ethical issues a firm must address as they seek to serve and compete in this domain in Asia as they pursue those activities?

5.   What are the actions of governments that help to generate the greatest success as firms both seek to address issues of poverty and to serve and compete in markets characterized by desperate poverty?

6.   What alliances between for-profit firms and NGOs help to generate the greatest reduction in poverty? In such alliances, what are the factors that generate the greatest success for business?

7.   How do the issues of poverty and business differ across Asia? Particularly, as we consider the two largest economies in the region, China and India, what are the substantive differences of how business competes to serve the desperate poor in these two markets?

8.   How do the innovation processes of firms differ as they seek to address those living at the bottom of the pyramid? Are Asian firms that come from these settings able to develop unique or more appropriate solutions than are firms from richer countries?

Submission Process

The submission process for this special issue shall be different than those typically pursued by APJM. Individuals are encouraged to submit a proposal to the special issue conference prior to submission of the article to the journal. This proposal should be 10 pages in length and submitted by October 31, 2012. Those proposals found to be relevant to the special issue will be asked to make a short presentation of their proposal to a conference focused on the special issue.

The special issue conference will be held at Tongji University in Shanghai, China, December 19–20, 2012. Proposals will receive brief comments at the conference. From the larger set of proposals presented, a smaller subset of papers will be encouraged to be submitted to the special issue. This subset will receive more extensive comments from the editors on how the paper should be developed for submission to the special issue.

The papers in this subset of selected proposals will be sent out for peer review. While those who cannot attend the proposal conference may submit to the special issue, authors are strongly encouraged to participate in this conference and the proposal system that is established. The submission of papers for the special issue is May 20, 2013. The expected publication date is 2014.

For questions regarding the conference and the special issue and the submission, please contact the guest editors: Garry Bruton, David Ahlstrom, and/or Steven Si