How can we scale distribution and sales networks that create opportunities at the BoP?


(Jessica Davis Pluess) #61

That's great. William just asked about microcredit and wondered if Solar Sister has included that in its engagement with entrepreneurs. Could you share any information about financing for consumers to purchase energy solutions?

Abby Mackey said:

Well there are two things here (1) recruitment of staff and (2) recruitment of entrepreneurs. Our staff need to be able to fully support entrepreneurs when it comes to business training, leadership development, product supply, customer care, and local community engagement. So traditional salespeople typically do not have the needed background in business development and supporting women while NGO workers tend to not have the sales drive and skills. For us it takes both which is where training is so key. Also, our staff work remotely and are dispersed throughout our different countries of operation so this requires people who can work independently and have the motivation to do so.

In terms of recruiting entrepreneurs, we work largely through existing networks of women. For example, we work with our local partners like Project Concern International, AWF and Mercy Corps who are already engaging women to introduce them to our business opportunity.


Jessica Davis Pluess said:

We've heard that as well from a number of social enterprises establishing their own networks. Have you been working with existing networks in these countries to help with the costs? Also curious to hear what kind of skills sales staff need to have to effectively engage solar sister entrepreneurs?

Abby Mackey said:

I think one big challenge is cultivating local leadership and skills that can support these businesses. Historically, investment in a qualified workforce in developing countries (especially from what we have seen in areas like Uganda) has nowhere near met the demand. We really rely on local staff to support our entrepreneurs and this can be expensive as it requires a lot of upfront investment in training and capacity building.


(Abby Mackey) #62

In terms of micro-credit, I think far too often many organizations take this on without fully comprehending the resources, internal structures and risk management this type of system requires. We started with a micro-consignment model but found that quickly our entire interaction with entrepreneurs started centering around their payments instead of business support and training. So we have shifted away from that where now entrepreneurs buy the products up front and sell at a mark up to earn an income. This does get tricky with larger systems and we try to partner with already existing microfinance institutions who solely focus on providing credit to help entrepreneurs with this.


(Jesse Kirowo) #63

Hi,

What we have done as Pharmnet in the area of developing capabilities is to work with a professional association whose members understand the subject area and the targeted intervention. There have been many cases of practitioners whose approach was purely business. Most of these end up with the challenge of not retaining the professionals.


Fernando Casado said:

one of the challenges we found was to develop the capabilities of distributors and retailers.. we recommend doing that by strengthening capability building processes which would include providing product positioning advice to retailers, training on the product's short and long-term benefits to door-to-door sales agents as well as management, negotiation, or sales skills. The cost and effort for training small-scale distributors and retailers is often underestimated, and can be a major challenge when trying to achieve scale and developing a successful distribution network.


(Elfid Torres) #64

Economies of scale is by essence a good way to achieve scale. In our projects large companies ask us to do more with less and technology is the instrument that allow us to do so. Virtual platform, online capacity trainings and other electronic devices may permit, if they are well conceptualized, to double the number of beneficiaries. They need to be easy to use and reliable. It should hence be used as a complement, a leverage.



Jessica Davis Pluess said:

It sounds like we are starting to identify some good lessons and solutions. On that point, let’s move to our last question:

Q3. What are some emerging lessons and solutions on achieving scale, and where are there opportunities for more partnerships?


(Jessica Davis Pluess) #65

That is great. What have you found to be some of the key benefits that help retain entrepreneurs?

Juan Céspedes said:

Yes, salesforce turnover is a key challenge. The way we have approached this challenge is by designing the model so that its really very attractive for them. We design our model thinking of our network of microentrepreneurs as end users, so we have to design something attractive for them with enough benfits for them to keep on the program, we call this the front end. First we need to have a strong front end, then we will build a backend (delivery, etc) to support the front end.


Jessica Davis Pluess said:

That's very interesting. As Caroline noted, salesforce turnover has been raised as a key challenge in many inclusive distribution models Have you found this to be an issue?

Juan Céspedes said:

Hello Jessica! We started one year ago to build a network of microentreprenuers in rural areas of Colombia and El Salvador. The microentrepreneurs, most of them women, sell unilever products in their communities. We´ve been developing skill building courses for our microentrepreneurs, so they can get their businesss stronger. We've as well developed courses on nutrition and health.

Jessica Davis Pluess said:

Welcome Juan! It would be great to learn more about how Unilever is engaging micro-entrepreneurs in their downstream value chain in Latin America?

Juan Céspedes said:

Hello! this is Juan, from Unilever. I work as Social Channels Manager for the Andean Region and Central America


(Caroline Ashley) #66

Living Goods demonstrates another set of lessons: the value of pooling a trusted network for different types of goods. As I understand it, Living Goods have quite a strong screening process for selecting which goods they include in their basket. They explained this at Sankalp Africa earlier in the year and there were some energy companies very keen to get selected. So that also raises the issue of quality and trust. They are essential if any network is going to go to scale.

Jessica Davis Pluess said:

It sounds like we are starting to identify some good lessons and solutions. On that point, let’s move to our last question:

Q3. What are some emerging lessons and solutions on achieving scale, and where are there opportunities for more partnerships?


(Caroline Ashley) #67

That's interesting Robert. Is there no opportunity for mobile phone payment? I agree that if is cash based, that is a huge constraint on scale.

Robert Mooney said:

Hi Jessica

One of our major challenges to scale is technology. In order to be profitable, we need to operate at a very low cost. There is a scale point where we cannot handle the volume of transactions manually, therefore all invoicing/credit management and control/payment receipts, etc. need to be managed digitally in order for us to grow in a controlled manner. However, there aren't many technology solutions out there that are tailored for the environments we're operating in and the type of transactions. In addition, cash collection is extremely expensive - and high risk for our both our entrepreneurs and our staff.


Jessica Davis Pluess said:

Welcome Rob1 It would be interesting to hear more about the Chakipi model in Peru and Haiti and what you've found to be some of the key challenges to scale.

Robert Mooney said:

Hi this is Rob Mooney. I am the Director of Global Operations for the Clinton Foundation's "Chakipi" ID businesses.


(Caroline Ashley) #68

This is an interesting example Jesse. Presumably pharmacies already have a fair degree of trust? So that then helps create the opportunity to sell new products? I know for example that ClickMedix have new technologies for screening (e.g. basic audiology screening using a smartphone and app) , and have rolled this out with pharmacies. The pharmacy network seems like a good option. And perhaps one that involves government endorsement or subsidy too?

Jesse Kirowo said:

Quickly, Pharmnet is a network of Independent pharmacy professionals in Kenya that predominantly serve the low income communities. Network members provide quality assured essential medicines through the network using a key component of pooled purchases. We have discovered that this helps the public to identify the legitimate pharmacies from the illegal pharmacies and incrementally improve on the foot falls.


(Jesse Kirowo) #69

There has been a lot of talk about using opinion leaders and opinion shapers in selecting partners with good capabilities in distribution. These may vary from place to place and may very well be village elders or association leaders. Getting endorsement is critical for eventual buy in.


(Jessica Davis Pluess) #70

Yes, technology seems to be key. Some models are starting to use some low tech solutions like WhatsApp to help communicate with entrepreneurs more efficiently.On the more sophisticated side, Boloro has developed an integrated mobile payment system with pin authentication in South Africa. I also know that Solar Sister worked with Taroworks (Grameen Foundation) to develop a tech solution that enables them to capture baseline data, use GPS coordination, and manage procurement.



Robert Mooney said:

Hi Jessica

One of our major challenges to scale is technology. In order to be profitable, we need to operate at a very low cost. There is a scale point where we cannot handle the volume of transactions manually, therefore all invoicing/credit management and control/payment receipts, etc. need to be managed digitally in order for us to grow in a controlled manner. However, there aren't many technology solutions out there that are tailored for the environments we're operating in and the type of transactions. In addition, cash collection is extremely expensive - and high risk for our both our entrepreneurs and our staff.


Jessica Davis Pluess said:

Welcome Rob1 It would be interesting to hear more about the Chakipi model in Peru and Haiti and what you've found to be some of the key challenges to scale.

Robert Mooney said:

Hi this is Rob Mooney. I am the Director of Global Operations for the Clinton Foundation's "Chakipi" ID businesses.


(Abby Mackey) #71

Mobile payments are a great way to streamline payment and decrease risk though in some countries the fees for mobile money outweigh the benefits.


(Rachael Clay) #72

Hello, Rachael Clay here. Director of Ethicore. Great examples, thank you. I am late to the discussion and I wonder how much collaboration there could be in building such distribution networks. So my question for the panel and community is:

To what extent can business build such distribution networks together, focusing on the up skilling of women and their business offer? Are there efficiencies of scale to be had in collaboration or is the current approach to specialised by company for that?

Thanks.


(Beth Meadows) #73

Partner with strong organizations both locally and globablly so that you can use their brand - expertise and support.

Be creative - keeping the stores - and their clients to wonder what is coming next.

Success of any organization is its team - build a strong one - empower them and help their passion grow for the organization.

Our mantra at Supply Hope is if it was easy then everyone would be doing it - so keep pushing through - platforms like this are great for helping us come together so hopefully one day it will be easy and everyone will be doing it - fighting poverty!!!


(Caroline Ashley) #74

Client satisfaction, client satisfaction, client satisfaction - oh and word of mouth but that comes from client satisfaction. Here is another great graph that Hystra presented on our marketing webinar: http://www.inclusivebusinesshub.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/M4bop-insights-Practitioners-Hub-2.pdf


(Robert Mooney) #75

Hi Ashley

Mobile phone payment is a possibility as long as there's an established network and it's trusted by the entrepreneurs. In Haiti, mobile money is still extremely underdeveloped but we're looking for opportunities there and Colombia to lean forward with partners on mobile money as its definitely the right direction to go in vs. sitting on the sidelines waiting for it to establish itself.

Caroline Ashley said:

That's interesting Robert. Is there no opportunity for mobile phone payment? I agree that if is cash based, that is a huge constraint on scale.

Robert Mooney said:

Hi Jessica

One of our major challenges to scale is technology. In order to be profitable, we need to operate at a very low cost. There is a scale point where we cannot handle the volume of transactions manually, therefore all invoicing/credit management and control/payment receipts, etc. need to be managed digitally in order for us to grow in a controlled manner. However, there aren't many technology solutions out there that are tailored for the environments we're operating in and the type of transactions. In addition, cash collection is extremely expensive - and high risk for our both our entrepreneurs and our staff.


Jessica Davis Pluess said:

Welcome Rob1 It would be interesting to hear more about the Chakipi model in Peru and Haiti and what you've found to be some of the key challenges to scale.

Robert Mooney said:

Hi this is Rob Mooney. I am the Director of Global Operations for the Clinton Foundation's "Chakipi" ID businesses.


(Jessica Davis Pluess) #76

Very true. On partnerships, what role have partners played? Where do you think there needs to be more partnership for these models to really scale?

Beth Meadows said:

Partner with strong organizations both locally and globablly so that you can use their brand - expertise and support.

Be creative - keeping the stores - and their clients to wonder what is coming next.

Success of any organization is its team - build a strong one - empower them and help their passion grow for the organization.

Our mantra at Supply Hope is if it was easy then everyone would be doing it - so keep pushing through - platforms like this are great for helping us come together so hopefully one day it will be easy and everyone will be doing it - fighting poverty!!!


(Caroline Ashley) #77

I was also hearing the other day that too much top line marketing can actually be damaging. It takes energy away from keeping current clients happy and so can risk satisfaction levels.


(Caroline Ashley) #78

Here is the link to the webinar series on marketing at the BoP, which had 3 webinars and sets of slides, involving Hystra and various speakers: how to viably market and distribute beneficial products at the BOP http://bit.ly/2geDLYf

And here is the link to Hystra's own site on Marketing for BoP http://hystra.com/m4bop-1/


(Jessica Davis Pluess) #79

Thanks, Elfid. Technology seems to be key but the upfront cost to develop it can be prohibitive for many companies. Do you think there are opportunities for partnerships here?

Elfid Torres said:

Economies of scale is by essence a good way to achieve scale. In our projects large companies ask us to do more with less and technology is the instrument that allow us to do so. Virtual platform, online capacity trainings and other electronic devices may permit, if they are well conceptualized, to double the number of beneficiaries. They need to be easy to use and reliable. It should hence be used as a complement, a leverage.



Jessica Davis Pluess said:

It sounds like we are starting to identify some good lessons and solutions. On that point, let’s move to our last question:

Q3. What are some emerging lessons and solutions on achieving scale, and where are there opportunities for more partnerships?


(Beth Meadows) #80

We have partners like Unilever giving us training for the women - signage and help with branding - and competitive prices. I think we need to come together and share and learn from each other so we are not recreating the wheel

Jessica Davis Pluess said:

Very true. On partnerships, what role have partners played? Where do you think there needs to be more partnership for these models to really scale?

Beth Meadows said:

Partner with strong organizations both locally and globablly so that you can use their brand - expertise and support.

Be creative - keeping the stores - and their clients to wonder what is coming next.

Success of any organization is its team - build a strong one - empower them and help their passion grow for the organization.

Our mantra at Supply Hope is if it was easy then everyone would be doing it - so keep pushing through - platforms like this are great for helping us come together so hopefully one day it will be easy and everyone will be doing it - fighting poverty!!!