Innovative entrepreneurial processes in the low-income context

Marleen Wierenga

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Poverty is a persistent global challenge present at different degrees in every society. It is most urgent in African and Asian countries where people struggle to have basic needs satisfied, and the lacking basic infrastructure influences lives of people regardless of their income level. This dissertation focuses on solutions to poverty in low-income communities of emerging economies. More specifically, the dissertation explores entrepreneurial activities of the poor people in India, and foreign firms developing innovations to increase the well-being of the poor in emerging economies. While any entrepreneur deals with scarcity of resources, low-income entrepreneurs operate also within narrower institutional boundaries. These come from financial constraints, limited social capital, lacking skills and narrower cultural norms. Further, the poor entrepreneurs tend to do repetitive routine work, imitate others and be driven by necessity. However, this dissertation explores grassroots entrepreneurs as innovative actors from a low-income background and developing, commercializing and scaling an innovation despite the limitations. Further, the dissertation explores foreign firms developing solutions to the conditions of poverty, yet with little tangible experience of the everyday struggles of the people. Exploring how different actors contribute to alleviating poverty, this dissertation allows us to learn more about entrepreneurship in the context of poverty and resource-scarcity. Each of the three essays of the dissertation focuses on different aspects. The first essay looks at grassroots entrepreneurs and the scaling process of these innovative low-income entrepreneurs. The second essay explores the work done by organizations in supporting grassroots innovators and entrepreneurs in their endeavours. The third essay studies firms based in developed countries but innovating products and services for users based in emerging economies. Here, the interest lies in understanding innovation processes across social and geographical boundaries. The dissertation shows the roles of innovative low-income entrepreneurs in developing solutions which are relevant to the problems of people living in conditions of poverty. These entrepreneurs are also important in providing employment to community members. The study also shows the importance of well-targeted support in practical questions to realize the entrepreneurial potential of grassroots entrepreneurs. An innovative business idea, access to relevant support and an enabling institutional environment are the conditions under which entrepreneurship can be a solution to poverty. Institutional level issues, such as education and health care, contribute to the conditions of poverty but also to the opportunities available for low-income entrepreneurs. Hence, this should not be forgotten in entrepreneurial research. When innovative solutions come from abroad, it helps if foreign actors have local representation and engagements.
Translated title of the contributionInnovatiiviset yrittäjyysprosessit vähävaraisissa olosuhteissa
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Halme, Minna, Supervising Professor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-3880-3
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-3881-0
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • poverty alleviation
  • entrepreneurship
  • innovation
  • India
  • emerging economies


Dive into the research topics of 'Innovative entrepreneurial processes in the low-income context'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this