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Srini VenugopalSrini Venugopal
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

When Two Worlds Meet: Institutional Merging in Subsistence Marketplaces and Implications for Marketing Management

The central challenge of marketing in subsistence marketplaces is that organizations seeking to enter local subsistence contexts originate in formal-institutional contexts, shaped by laws, property rights and mainstream media. However, subsistence marketplaces operate within a web of locally evolved informal-institutions, shaped by social interactions. In this paper, we examine the process of institutional change that ensues when social enterprises from formal institutional contexts enter informal subsistence contexts. We theorize the notion of institutional merging - a process in which two institutions coming in contact, shape each other in a process of co-evolution, and gain aspects of each other. We conceptually situate social enterprises as the enactors of this process of institutional merging. Using qualitative data from 19 social enterprises, we identify and elaborate four distinct stages of the institutional merging process.


Srinivas Venugopal has a background in social entrepreneurship and is currently pursuing his doctoral degree in marketing at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. Prior to joining the University of Illinois, he was leading a technology-based social venture in Tamil Nadu, India. His venture was focused on delivering education services to low income consumers in rural regions of Tamil Nadu. Srini is also the founder of an NGO called "Diya", which provides supplementary education in the urban slums of Chennai, India. In line with his work experiences, Srini’s research interests lie in the area of poverty and sustainability. He explores the phenomenon of poverty both at the individual and societal level. Srini’s research has been published in academic journals such as Journal of Public Policy and Marketing and Journal of Macromarketing.

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