Scaling up social businesses in developing markets

Nancy Bocken, Alison Fil, Jaideep Prabhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)
141 Downloads (Pure)


Most of the world's poor live in developing markets and face unmet needs in core areas such as education, health, energy, sanitation and financial services. This offers businesses a vast opportunity for growth as these economies emerge from low-income to middle-income status. Social businesses in particular address a social need while generating profits typically reinvested into the business itself, but there is limited understanding of the ways through which social businesses achieve scale. This paper investigates how social businesses can scale up. First, we define scaling up as “increasing the number of customers or members of a business as well as expanding its offer and maximising its revenues until it
reaches millions of people.” Second, using three in-depth case studies of social businesses that successfully scaled up according to these definitions, BRAC, Aravind and Amul, we identify scaling up strategies for social businesses. We identified market penetration, market development, product development and diversification as key strategies at different stages of business maturity. We find that there are two ways of increasing income generated that are linked to these four strategies: increasing revenue per stream and diversifying revenue streams. Our findings give insight to companies aiming to pursue social businesses and adds to the sparse literature on scaling up social businesses. A fruitful future
research avenue would be to investigate the best sequence for applying these scaling strategies across companies and sectors over time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-308
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Author accepted manuscript


  • Social business
  • Business models
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Developing markets
  • Business strategy
  • Sustainable growth


Dive into the research topics of 'Scaling up social businesses in developing markets'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this