Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: https://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.724955
Title: Fluid capitalism at the bottom of the pyramid : a study of the off-grid solar power market in Uttar Pradesh, India
Author: Balls, Jonathan
ISNI:       0000 0004 6421 7364
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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Abstract:
This thesis examines 'Bottom of the Pyramid' (BoP) capitalism through an empirical study of the off-grid solar power market in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Over the last three decades, the extension and neoliberalisation of capitalism across the Global South has gathered pace. In many countries, including India, there has been a proliferation of businesses serving low-income populations following economic liberalisation, and a resulting growth in what is increasingly been theorised as 'BoP capitalism'; primarily in a literature produced by economics, business, and development scholars. In this literature, the development of capitalism at the bottom of the pyramid through the Global South is predominantly being theorised as a free market story, of formal, regularised businesses succeeding by selling good quality, branded but value- conscious, innovative, and frugal goods and services. Furthermore, the argument is being made that this is 'social capitalism', that formal businesses entering BoP markets can deliver developmental and environmental benefits to low-income populations. New markets for off-grid solar power products that are growing in multiple countries in the Global South provide one significant example of BoP capitalism. Within India, an off-grid solar power market has been developing since the 1990s within a newly liberalised market context. A body of research reports that private businesses are selling good quality and value-conscious solar goods and services to India's poor. This market has been framed as highlighting the potential of BoP capitalism to bring energy and light to India's poor, while also delivering developmental benefits. The contribution of this thesis is to challenge the existing body of literature on BoP capitalism, which tells a story of BoP capitalism through the Global South being developed by formal businesses, according to market dynamics, and sees no place for informal businesses as formal ones develop. Based on ten months of qualitative fieldwork in 2013-2014 in the state of Uttar Pradesh, looking comparatively at formal, regularised and commercialised solar shops and dealerships and at informal, small-scale solar shops, this thesis explores BoP capitalism in the Indian context. This thesis has several main findings. Firstly, it shows how a new group of formal solar shops and dealerships selling good quality, branded, and standardised products, and providing an installation service, after-sales servicing, and formal bank financing are developing the BoP solar market in Uttar Pradesh in a fashion familiar to the wider literature on BoP capitalism. Secondly, it shows how the success of these solar shops and dealerships was not a free market story, but how they are being shaped and supported through state and non-state resources and patronage, and that their growth was often dependent upon informal relationships with rural development banks, which opened-up bank financing options for solar customers and access to government subsidies. Thirdly, it looks at how informal solar shops were successfully selling off- grid solar products, adopting distinctly different business practices to formal solar businesses, and developing the market in a distinctly different way. I trace how informal businesses were not just successful because they were selling cheap and substandard goods, but were also thriving because they were the site of improvised and what I term 'jugaad' products and business practices. Jugaad is a Hindi term, referring to improvised and ingenious innovation and action. This thesis highlights a context of fluid capitalism at the BoP in India, where formal and informal solar businesses are developing the BoP solar market in distinctly different ways, and where state and non- state actors are shaping the market.
Supervisor: McCartney, Matthew ; Lora-Wainwright, Anna Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council ; St John's College ; University of Oxford
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.724955  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Solar energy--India ; Informal sector (Economics)--India ; Capitalism--India ; Uttar Pradesh (India)--Economic conditions--21st century
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