Marketplace Literacy Project's Mission in India

Our mission in India is fourfold:

(i) to provide entrepreneurial and consumer literacy education for low-literate, low-income youth and adults in urban and rural India,

(ii) to use innovative multi-media appraoches to provide entrepreneurial and consumer literacy education to large audiences,

(iii) to train non-profit organizations in India to provide entrepreneurial and consumer literacy education, and

(iv) to disseminate educational materials and guidelines for entrepreneurial and consumer literacy in different Indian languages.


Entrepreneurial & Consumer Literacy Curriculum Development

We pursue our mission through educational programs. The curriculum was developed on the basis of rigorous, qualitative research of low-literate, low-income buyers and sellers in urban and rural Tamil Nadu since 2001. Using this research as a basis, a curriculum for business and consumer literacy was developed, which culminated in an educational program that was pilot–tested in June 2003. The curriculum was the result of extensive discussion among the members of a research team who combine nearly 2 decades of experience in business education and consumer research at a leading university in the US, and over 3 decades of experience in social work and community development organizations in urban and rural Tamil Nadu.  Basic research and curriculum development was conducted by Madhu Viswanathan in his individual capacity as an academic researcher.  Our program is documented in a book, Enabling Consumer and Entrepreneurial Literacy in Subsistence Marketplaces: Research-Based Education Across Literacy and Resource Barriers (2008), Springer.


Educational Content and Methodology

Our philosophical orientation is to enable participants to learn how to learn and create their own opportunities. We experimented witheducational programs of different lengths depending on a variety of factors.  We began with a 5-day educational program, the most elaborate version.  We have since developed a marketplace literacy program that is 6 hours to a day long and an entrepreneurial literacy program in either a 1 or a 2 day format. 

Our approach uses teaching methods such as picture sortings, group discussion, and role-playing and assumes that the typical participant cannot read or write.  Part 1 focuses on the process of exchange and its evolution over time. We cover the concept of a value chain from production of products to consumption.

In Part 2, participants assume the role of consumers. We focus on consumer literacy by using simulated shopping environments with common “traps” identified in our research as being issues that illiterate consumers are vulnerable to. We use the notion of value for a product as the guiding concept to communicate the importance of informed consumer behavior.

In Part 3, participants assume the role of entrepreneurs. We emphasize a consumer-oriented philosophy of doing business that makes a profit on the bases of satisfying customer needs and providing a valuable product. This orientation flows from the consumer orientation of part 2 and the importance of value in a product. We start out with a discussion of how business opportunities can be evaluated based on consumer needs served, competitors, and strengths and weaknesses of individual entrepreneurs.

We start out with a discussion of how business opportunities can be evaluated based on consumer needs served, competitors, and strengths and weaknesses of individual entrepreneurs. We cover several specific areas of business such as production and product design, distribution and management of the supply chain, pricing and related financial issues, and promotion. We end the training with a discussion of ethics and the need to balance societal concerns with profit making and consumer needs, as well as sustainable consumption and production.

Our experiences have provided a basis to scale the program to larger audiences through innovative video-based approaches. Following extensive piloting and assessment, the program is being scaled through large social enterprises with plans for implementation in other countries and contexts. 


Our Partner Organization in India

Marketplace Literacy Communities is run by three volunteers who founded it, R. Venkatesan, S. Sudhakar and K. Vijayakumar, with support from Madhu Viswanathan. They have extensive experience as social workers, educators, and research associates for academic endeavors.  We have three employees working with self-help groups in Chennai and six employees working with self-help groups in villages. Marketplace Literacy Communities, based in the state of Tamil Nadu, has formed or reactivated nearly 100 self-groups of 15-20 women in different parts of Chennai, providing day-to-day support as well as marketplace literacy education. We also work in three clusters of villages in Tamil Nadu, providing marketplace literacy education to women.

In the state of Tamil Nadu, we are working with Madura Micro-Finance Limited (MMFL) to enable video based self-administered marketplace literacy education to groups of women, using a movie about empowerment produced for educational purposes as an emotional platform.  This Micro Business Education (MBE) program developed with Madura Micro Finance Limited is being continuously tested, modified, and assessed.

In the state of Andhra Pradesh, working with the Byraju Foundation, we have created video-based episodes and support materials to facilitate marketplace literacy education. This program was launched to a small audience after extensive piloting.




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