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Investigating inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem through the lens of bottom of the pyramid (BOP) theory: case study of Taobao village in China

Wu Zhao (Xidian University, Xian, China)
Anqi Wang (Economy and Management School, Xidian University, Xian, China)
Yun Chen (Salford Business School, University of Salford, Salford, UK)
Wei Liu (School of Economics and Management, Xidian University, Xian, China)

Chinese Management Studies

ISSN: 1750-614X

Article publication date: 24 February 2021

Issue publication date: 17 June 2021




Entrepreneurial ecosystem is a frontier issue in the field of enterprise strategy and entrepreneurship. As suggested by bottom of the pyramid (BOP) theory, entrepreneurs from base of the pyramid can gain the benefits of economic growth by obtaining equal entrepreneurial opportunities with appropriate support and motivation. However, theoretical framework to understand the ecosystem and help the people from the BOP to benefit from ecosystem is under-researched. Based on the investigation of the Taobao ecosystem case study, this paper developed a multi-layer framework to fill in the research gap.


This research adopts case study methodology for several reasons. First, case study methodology fits the explorative nature of this research to understand “what” and “how” a phenomenon happened (Yin, 2017). Second, case study research design can specify gaps or holes in existing theory with the ultimate goal of advancing theoretical explanations (Ridder, 2016). And third, it can provide researchers with contextual richness (Davison and Martinsons, 2016; Spigel, 2017).


Based on the literature review of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the theory of the BOP, the initial framework of the inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem is proposed. And then, based on the investigation of the Taobao village which is the typical inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem, this paper explored how the inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem emerges, develops and realises the co-creation between multiple actors. The emergence of Taobao village entrepreneurial ecosystem is because of the fact that ICT empowers BOP entrepreneurs. The development of entrepreneurial ecosystem presents a point-line-plane diffusion path, and co-creation to enhance inclusive entrepreneurship is realised by interaction and cooperation within social networks and integration of resources. Then, the framework of inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem is further modified.

Research limitations/implications

The complexity of entrepreneurial ecosystem facing BOP poses a major challenge to its actual operation. Therefore, it is necessary to study the driving factors of inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems. In particular, ecosystem is a purposeful collaborative network of dynamic interactive systems, which has a set of changing dependencies in a given context. Research is still limited on socioeconomic actors’ interaction with each other in each stage to promote the evolution of entrepreneurial ecosystem. The extent to which they are intentionally designed or organically produced is still unclear, which is recommended for future study in this field.

Practical implications

It provides theoretical understanding on how to successfully form sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem by integrating BOP entrepreneurs in value chain. The successful experience of Taobao village can provide contributions and implications for the management in practice. On the one hand, this can provide theoretical guidance for other countries and regions to build inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystems and help them to check and fill the gaps and build inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystems based on their local characteristics. On the other hand, this study provides theoretical guidance for solving the problem of poverty at the BOP, transforming the poor from the objects of help to successful entrepreneurs and thus realising regional sustainable development.


The significance of this study is to provide theoretical understanding on how to successfully form entrepreneurial ecosystem by practical investigation of entrepreneurial “habitat” at the BOP.



The authors acknowledge the research on major theoretical and practical problems in Shaanxi province/Shaanxi Association of Social Sciences (2018C034); Shaanxi Science and Technology Department/Shaanxi Association of Science and Technology (E219060016); and Shaanxi Social Science Fund Project (2016R035).


Zhao, W., Wang, A., Chen, Y. and Liu, W. (2021), "Investigating inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem through the lens of bottom of the pyramid (BOP) theory: case study of Taobao village in China", Chinese Management Studies, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 613-640.



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