Skip to Main Content

Joshua Ault
Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina
Comparative institutional advantages at the bottom of the pyramid: Explaining cross-national differences in the growth of commercial microfinance

Joshua Ault is pursuing a doctoral degree in international business in the Sonoco International Business Department at the University of South Carolina. He received a Master of Finance degree from the University of Utah in 2002 and a Master of Business Administration in International Management degree from Baylor University in 2001. His research focuses primarily on business in emerging, transition, and less developed countries. He is especially interested in informality as a common factor in these markets. His work takes a comparative approach, exploring the global divergence of informal systems within these countries and how this divergence affects organizational structures, models of innovation, knowledge transfer, and the flow of capital across national boundaries. He is also interested in issues of sustainability - focusing especially on the role of business in meeting the needs of the poor in these countries. For instance, he has recently conducted research on the microfinance industry, which provides financial services to poor entrepreneurs. Additionally, in 2007, he co-authored a proposal to make "Sustainable Enterprise and Development" the new strategic initiative of the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. In 2008, this proposal was officially adopted by the school.

His research has been presented at numerous conferences and locations including: The Academy of Management annual meeting, The Academy of International Business annual meeting, Cornell University, and Oxford University. Recently, he was recognized by the Moore School of Business, which granted him the 2008 Most Promising Researcher Award for his work.

Comparative institutional advantages at the bottom of the pyramid: Explaining cross-national differences in the growth of commercial microfinance

We apply a comparative institutional perspective to extend research into the conditions of successful business innovation in Bottom-of-the-Pyramid (BOP) markets. Specifically, we use the concept of "comparative institutional advantages" to argue that, rather than obstructing all business activity, the unique institutional resources and capabilities found in various BOP markets provide "repositories of capabilities" that enable specific innovations. Successful models in these markets, therefore, are likely to both be different than those found in developed economies and differ across BOP markets themselves. To test the importance of the institutional context in these markets, we analyze cross-national differences in the growth of one BOP innovation: commercial microfinance. Our empirical analysis supports the proposition that BOP markets contain divergent comparative institutional advantages. Specifically, we find that the amount of micro lending is strongest in those countries where institutions support a specific type of informal market exchange.

Connect with Ivey Business School