Selling with prejudice: Social enterprise and caste at the bottom of the pyramid in India

Jamie Cross*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

How do you sell a solar powered lamp to India's un-electrified, rural poor? This contribution to Anthropology for Sale explores the work of direct selling in rural India, reflecting on the forms of prejudice, difference and exclusion that are produced as multinational companies create markets for consumer goods in places of chronic global poverty. In the highlands of Orissa, India, a US company sells solar powered lights through a network of young male sales agents. The company and its products express empathy and proximity, attachment and connection to India's indigenous and low caste communities. Yet the company’s salesmen are often more concerned with maintaining forms of structural advantage and their sales practices articulate social differences based on caste, class and gender. Rather than see prejudice as a peripheral effect of expansion and growth in emerging markets this paper proposes that we see it as a constitutive feature of markets at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)458-479
Number of pages22
JournalEthnos
Volume84
Issue number3
Early online date17 Apr 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2019

Keywords

  • bottom of the pyramid
  • caste
  • social enterprise
  • solar energy
  • Youth

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