“When the poor are converted into consumers, they acquire the dignity of attention and choices from the private sector. . . The key is affordability, without sacrificing quality or efficacy… stores must be easy to reach, within a short walking distance… availability (and therefore distribution efficiency) is a critical factor… ”
CK Prahalad, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid.
The Katete Retailers
If you believe, that by and large, retailers know their customers, then you’ll be very excited about what happened today (21/9/12). Our first group of rural retailers – 29 of them – came to the district town of Katete to be trained in the Kit Yamoyo product and the associated health issues. They also got a session on how to improve their enterprise skills. Here they are with the very attractive training materials in hand. The buzz in the room reached a crescendo when, after being introduced to the product, they were asked to highlight the benefits. There was a torrent of contributions: a good sign given that their job is to sell the benefits of the commodities in their shop.
So what happened? Immediately after the training the retailers went to our stockist – the Coca-Cola wholesaler – and between them, bought ALL the stock he had for September – which arrived a week or so ago. In fact, the wholesaler had to restrict each retailer to 3 bags (15 Kit Yamoyos) so that there were enough for everybody. One retailer wanted a whole carton (7 bags) and said that he wasn’t going to wait for the voucher distribution to fall into place. He knew, that at our cash price of ZMK 5,000 (about a dollar), he could sell them in his rural village to mothers and carers who might spend 2, 3 or even 4 times that amount travelling to the ‘local’ clinic.
One retailer was approached by a member of the public outside the wholesaler, who wanted to buy a Kit Yamoyo there and then. The retailer declined saying that these were for the people of his community. So the training messages have stuck: our trial is about seeing if we can reach communities at ‘The Last Mile’, in underserved rural villages.
Whilst I’m sure there will be sales outside the rural target areas once we get underway, that’s not such a bad thing. Our key aim for this trial is to see if we can emulate what Coca-Cola does so effectively: create a desirable, affordable, attractive and profitable product – a create a supply chain that uses market forces to ‘pull’ the product into the most remote communities: because customers want it. And then, after trying it, want another one, so the small rural retailers who bring it can earn a profit from their effort.
Of course it’s early days. Will the retailers be able to sell all the kits they’ve bought? Will they come back for more? Have we managed to follow the advice set out by the late great CK Prahalad, in his books and articles: ‘The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid’ and ‘The Innovation Sandbox’?
Learning is what the ColaLife Operational Trial Zambia is all about. It’s going to be fun finding out.
Here are some pictures from the training today: