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Madhu Viswanathan

Professor of Business Administration and Diane & Steven N. Miller Centennial Chair

Biographical Sketch

Madhu Viswanathan is the Diane and Steven N. Miller Professor in Business at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he has been on the faculty since 1990.  He earned a B. Tech in Mechanical Engineering (Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India, 1985), and a PhD in Marketing (University of Minnesota, 1990).  His research programs are in two areas; measurement and research methodology, and literacy, poverty, and subsistence marketplace behaviors.  He has authored books in both areas: Measurement Error and Research Design (Sage, 2005), Enabling Consumer and Entrepreneurial Literacy in Subsistence Marketplaces (Springer, 2008, in alliance with UNESCO), Subsistence Marketplaces (etext and ebookpartnerships, 2013), and Bottom-Up Enterprise (forthcoming).  He founded and directs the Subsistence Marketplaces Initiative ( and has pioneered the area of enquiry and practice entitled subsistence marketplaces, taking a bottom-up approach to the study of the intersection of poverty and marketplaces and developing unique synergies between research, teaching, and social initiatives.  He teaches courses on research methods and on subsistence and sustainability, educational experiences on the latter, reaching almost a thousand students a year at the University of Illinois, and tens of thousands of students around the world through Coursera. Educational materials on subsistence marketplaces for educators and students are disseminated through a unique web portal, and innovations include a one-of-a-kind international immersion experience.  He founded and directs the Marketplace Literacy Project (, a non-profit organization, pioneering the design and delivery of marketplace literacy education to low-income consumers and subsistence marketplaces.  Through his organization and partners, tens of thousands of women have received marketplace literacy education – with ongoing programs in India, Tanzania, Uganda, Argentina, Honduras, and Illinois.  He has received research, teaching, curriculum development, social entrepreneurship, humanitarian, leadership, public engagement, international achievement, and career achievement awards and his course on subsistence marketplaces was ranked one of the top entrepreneurship courses by Inc. magazine.  He serves on the Livelihoods Advisory Board of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and has designed marketplace literacy education for refugees and a course for UNHCR staff on subsistence marketplaces.