A Systematic Review of the Bottom/Base of the Pyramid Literature: Cumulative Evidence and Future Directions

  • Krzysztof DembekEmail author
  • Nagaraj Sivasubramaniam
  • Danielle A. Chmielewski
Original Paper


Sixteen years ago, Prahalad and Hart (Strategy + Business 26:2–14, 2002) introduced the possibility of both profitably serving the poor and alleviating poverty. This first iteration of the Bottom/Base of the Pyramid approach (known as BoP 1.0) focused on selling to the poor. In 2008, after ethical criticisms leveled at it, the field moved to BoP 2.0, instead emphasizing business co-venturing. Since 2015, we have witnessed some calls for a new iteration (BoP 3.0), with the focus broadening to a more sustainable development approach to poverty alleviation. In this paper, we seek to answer the question: How has the BoP approach evolved over the past 16 years, and has it delivered on its early promise? We conducted a systematic review of 276 papers published in journals in this period, utilizing a rigorous correspondence analysis method to map key trends, and then further examined the 22 empirical studies conducted on the BoP approach. Our results suggest that the field has evolved, passing through a number of trends and coming full circle—with our analysis pointing to more recent BoP literature emphasizing similar themes to those espoused in the initial BoP iteration (i.e., treating the BoP as consumers), rather than reflecting the principles espoused in either BoP 2.0 or BoP 3.0. Our analysis also points to a lack of clear evidence that the BoP concept has delivered on its promise either to businesses (that they can serve BoP markets profitably) or to BoP participants (that involvement by multinational corporations will help alleviate poverty).


Bottom/base of the pyramid Correspondence analysis Developing countries Multinational corporations Poverty alleviation 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare they have no conflicts of interests.

Supplementary material

10551_2019_4105_MOESM1_ESM.docx (130 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 129 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Krzysztof Dembek
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Nagaraj Sivasubramaniam
    • 3
  • Danielle A. Chmielewski
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre for Social Impact SwinburneSwinburne University of TechnologyHawthornAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Management and MarketingUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Palumbo Donahue School of BusinessDuquesne UniversityPittsburghUSA

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