Purpose – The paper aims to analyse bottom of the pyramid (BoP) customers’ (e.g. Bangladeshi farmers) use and appropriation of mobile telephony and to critically identify a suitable research strategy for such investigation. Design/methodology/approach – Concentrated ethnographic immersion was combined with both methodological and investigator triangulation during a four-month period of fieldwork conducted in Bangladeshi villages to obtain more robust findings. Concentrated immersion was required to achieve relatively speedier engagement owing to the difficulty in engaging with respondents on a long-term basis. Findings – The farmers’ use of mobile telephony went beyond the initial adoption, as they appropriated it through social and institutional support, inventive means and/or changes in their own lifestyle. The paper argues that technology appropriation, being a result of the mutual shaping of technology, human skills and abilities and macro-environmental factors, enables users to achieve desired outcomes which may not always be the ones envisaged by the original designers. Research limitations/implications – The paper contributes to two major areas: first, it identifies technology appropriation as an important and emerging concept in international marketing research; second, it suggests a concentrated form of ethnographic engagement for studying technology appropriation in a developing country context. Practical implications – A good understanding of the dynamic interplay between users’ skills and abilities, social contexts and technological artefacts/applications is required in order for businesses to serve BoP customers profitably. Originality/value – The paper presents a dynamic model of technology appropriation based on findings collected through a pragmatic approach by combining concentrated ethnographic immersion with methodological and investigator triangulation.