A year of increased social impact
BoP Innovation Center (BoPInc) is a Dutch non-profit foundation that focuses on ameliorating people’s lives at the base of the pyramid. The BoP is a demographic term that covers the approximately 4 billion people who have to live on less than US $8 per day). With our offices in the Netherlands, East Africa (Nairobi, Kenya) and South-east Asia (Dhaka, Bangladesh) we accelerate market-based innovations and business to serve the BoP population. So whether we are helping companies to reach the poor with socially responsible goods and services or we are helping poor entrepreneurs develop thriving businesses, we aim for making a positive impact in the daily lives of people.
Our approach is based on the ideas of C.K Prahalad, who developed the idea that businesses, governments, and donor agencies stop thinking of the poor as victims and instead start seeing them as resilient and creative entrepreneurs as well as value-demanding consumers.
We assist local Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and multinationals in the development, marketing, and distribution of their products or services to BoP. We support entrepreneurs in product and service innovations, share learnings, and improve the enabling business environment for BoP entrepreneurs. Together with leading companies, civil society organizations, and knowledge institutions, we explore the potential of low-income markets, gain local consumer insights, and create new business propositions.
From 2012 until the end of 2017, more than 60 product and service improvements were launched in BoP markets with the support of BoPInc. More than 700,000 BoP consumers were reached with these products and services through innovative channels.
Our services are based on three pillars of expertise, that are described in the following pages:
We co-build inclusive market propositions for consumers in low-income markets
Inclusive innovations are new solutions that have a positive impact on people’s lives. They provide the Base of the Pyramid (BoP) with access to affordable quality products or services and income-generating opportunities.
BoPInc supports entrepreneurs and organizations in their innovation process by reducing complexity and risks. We provide design thinking expertise, market insights, and entrepreneurial guidance to develop solutions for BoP markets that are feasible, desirable, and viable.
We collect market insights, develop propositions, and test early design concepts. This offers validated ideas that provide direction in the innovation process.
We scout global innovations which we transfer to and improve for local markets. This way clients can be inspired by successes elsewhere and won´t have to reinvent the wheel.
We bring an entrepreneurial spirit to a client´s innovation process and integrate the expectations and roles of different stakeholders. This reduces the complexity of the
We provide solutions to startups, SMEs, and corporates to ensure that their products and services are accessible and appealing for the BoP consumer. We do this by including the BoP not only as consumers, but also as professionals in the business operations of our clients. We are experts in marketing & distribution for BoP markets and provide our clients with meaningful insights and co-develop strategies to generate business as well as social impact.
We discover and define market opportunities for you by conducting (actionable) market research and interacting closely with BoP consumers.
We co-design and launch effective brands, marketing strategies and behavioral change campaigns that captivate BoP consumers.
We co-design and implement (last-mile) distribution channels to reach the BoP, including door-to-door sales models.
To operate in BoP markets, you need a set of non-traditional (business) skills and know-how. We are committed to providing the support needed to clients and customers to strengthen and grow their businesses. We call this ‘Inclusive Business Empowerment’ (IB). We do this through advocacy and lobbying, individualized state-of-the art tools, tailor-made trainings for business and development professionals, creating strategic alliances, conducting research and sharing knowledge.
We strengthen skills of entrepreneurs and/or company staff on inclusive business topics: both online as offline.
Our trainings are geared towards inclusive innovation processes, and marketing and distribution strategies in
low income markets.
To help organizations bring IB ambition to a next level, we reflect with companies and organizations on their internal processes, values, and (human) resources. We map the status quo of organizational IB capabilities, and design a capacity development track to address potential gaps.
We co-create tools and inspiring knowledge products on inclusive business, based on best practices and local expertise to reach a wide range of stakeholders.
We support start-ups, SMEs, and multinationals in
creating commercially and socially viable business models,
that include the people in the BoP as consumers, producers
C.K. Prahalad, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid
The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG s) can be viewed as the world’s greatest achievement in recent history, as they represent a global collaboration for the future of humankind and the planet. Not only are these goals broad but they are also more inclusive than goals of the past. The SDGs recognize the importance of business to play a critical role in leading creative solutions for sustainable development. Social entrepreneurship is now recognized as a means of addressing the world’s most pressing social and environmental problems. This is why, for our 2020 strategy we aligned our goals with SDGs.
Because social entrepreneurship is market based and is focused on social good, it impacts the environment in a much broader way as compared to the traditional NGO model. This is why our work at BoPInc affects and impacts health, nutrition, poverty, gender, economic growth, sustainable cities, communities and sustainable energy. For us at BoPInc, 2017 is the year in which we consolidated and grew our presence throughout the world, and increased our social impact.
While social impact has always been our raison d´etre, this past year it’s become at the forefront of work and we have strengthened our monitoring and programmatic approaches to have more of a focus on social impact; this is why we refer to 2017 as the “Year of Increased Social Impact”.
Reflecting on the first year anniversary to the goal’s adoption and on our work over 2017 at BoPInc, we see that when we engage with businesses to address development challenges, we actively and mainly contribute to achieve the SDG 2 (No Hunger) and SDG 8 (Decent Growth and Economic Growth) targets. More specifically through our projects we contribute to other 6 SDGs (see image in opposite page). By harnessing and unlocking the passion, creativity and dedication of social entrepreneurs, we can achieve the mission of a better world!
I invite you to read more about BoPInc’s activities and learn how we co-create with companies and partners to support people at the Base of the Pyramid and help address the multitude of development challenges as articulated in the SDG targets.
The Guardian publishes an article on how we pioneer virtual reality technology: “using virtual reality to understand what life is like for low-income consumers.”
IAP Training Ethiopia
In the project Innovations Against Poverty (IAP), BopInc staff trained a group of advisors on the Inclusive Business and Inclusive Innovation toolkits, to strengthen their service provision to SMEs applied to IAP.
BoP Marketing and Behavior Change Workshop
BoPInc was part of the 3rd Practical Impact Alliance held at MIT, developing a workshop where lessons learned from BoPInc´s work in low-mid-income markets were discussed.
Unilever Long Term Partnership
We have worked with Unilever for over three years and during the summer 2017 we took the exciting step of sealing a long-term collaboration with very broad objectives on Inclusive Distribution.
Most Influential Post Winner
“Finding the Right Last-Mile Distribution Model”. MIT was awarded the most influential blog post in Next Billion, which centers around a publication by BoPInc /MIT.
Together with IBA we developed a course in which over 500 participants gain knowledge on tools and methodologies used by 2Scale. Some of the topics were: value creation, innovations in farming, access to finance and agribusiness clusters.
This learning event brought together practitioners, researchers, donors, government and private sector representatives to discuss their experiences and learnings with multi-sectoral approaches to improving food and nutrition security in Bangladesh.
Launch of our more wacky innovation project that aims to explore virtual reality as a sales and marketing tool for improved sanitation.
BopInc staff supported a group of researchers in adapting new research approaches to better include the perspectives of end-users of their research, such as consumers and smallholder farmers. This workshop, commisioned by Worldfish, in Malaysia brought all the researchers together.
BoPInc organized an international event to present the outcomes and learnings after 5 years of the 2SCALE program. The event presented different success cases for the program and brought together over 150 participants from different disciplines.
Start of a project that aims to develop larger, more sustainable, and gender-balanced youth enterprises, food and agricultural SMEs, and nutritional sales agents in Benin.
BoP innovation approaches in sustainable development are multidimensional, interdependent, and cut across many relevant development areas. The following crosscutting topics were covered during 2017:
Women’s empowerment: identifying the obstacles to equality and personal success that women face and ensuring that our services and support address those challenges.
The use of new technologies in inclusive businesses: Leveraging the increased adoption of (smart)phones at the BoP for enhanced experiences and more cost-effective delivery of knowledge and services.
Youth employment in last mile activation and distribution: Addressing the challenge of employing young people to support the distribution of products and services to geographically remote people.
Women are present in every value chain as producers, processors, and distributors. However, their roles are often informal, not recognized, with limited power and voice. Or their roles are recognized but they have difficulties in accessing the resources needed to grow and professionalize their businesses. In most of the developing countries, women make up more than half of the agricultural workforce and also have the responsibility for children’s education and families nutrition. Many of these women still face gender-related constraints and barriers; because of this, many female entrepreneurs are stuck in the early stages of the entrepreneurship pathway.
$10 trillion is what women’s unpaid work accounts for annualy. $28 trillion would be added to the global GDP by 2025, if all countries would empower women to their full potential (FAO Committee on Food Security, 2011).
An increase to a woman´s income of $10 achieves the same improvement in children’s nutrition and health as an increase to a man´s income of $110 (FAO Committee on Food Security, 2011). Enabling the economic empowerment of all women ensures healthier, more fulfilled lives.
At BoPInc, we believe that women entrepreneurs play a vital role in boosting economic productivity and growth in emerging economies and should be included as viable and trusted economic actors in value chains.
To reap the benefits of women’s entrepreneurship, the constraints for female entrepreneurs should be addressed and their potential should be unleashed. BoPInc does this through the design and implementation of four new delivery modules that target female entrepreneurs. These models range from inspiring the emergence of start-ups to accelerating and professionalising already existing female-led small and medium enterprises in the agro-food sector in emerging countries.
Goal: Increase the number of women who enter the value chain as economic actors.
In PROOFS, 320 rural women in Bangladesh were recruited and trained to work as microentrepreneurs and are called Nutrition Sales Agents (NSA). Within PROOFS, BoPInc developed the strategy of the Nutrition Intervention and supported the setup of the NSA network. Through the NSAs, 80,000 rural households receive important nutritional and hygiene information, and are able to access nutritional and hygiene products which would otherwise not be (easily) available for purchase. (read more)
Goal: Empower female entrepreneurs to exploit untapped opportunities in their value chains.
In collaboration with GAIN Marketplace BoPInc worked with Smart Logistics Kenya´s Rose Mutuku on a new nutritious product (pre-cooked beans) introduced to the Kenyan market. In addition to designing a marketing and branding strategy, BoPInc worked with Rose on building the business case for this new product and getting access to seed capital to set-up a professional production line and marketing campaign. (read more)
Goal: Working with a women processor’s cooperative to increase market share.
Banda Borae is a processing cooperative of 20 women, who used to market their soybean kebabs at the local market without branding or market strategy. Under 2SCALE, BoPInc managed to boost the self esteem of women by introducing a brand to their product. We also helped to expand the cooperative’s route to market by introducing branded and mobile containers to directly target the different local markets. That has lead to a steep increase in sales, and a proud and more efficiently-run processing cooperative. (read more)
Innovation is in the DNA of our organization. As an Innovation Center, we are motivated to find new solutions to old problems. We recognize the enormous untapped potential that technology wields and our team is built to use this technology for social good. Our multidisciplinary team allows us to incorporate different disciplines in the innovation process, collect market insights, understand new technologies, and co-create inclusive business models.
Experience has taught us that although BoP markets have an exciting business potential, innovating in these markets can be unusually complex and challenging. General challenges when doing business in low-income markets include: lack of market information, limited availability of marketing, sales, and distribution channels, consumers
having irregular and limited incomes, which means they need trusted low-risk products at an affordable price, and often higher operating costs.
At BoPInc, we believe that companies can mitigate many of these challenges by integrating Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in their inclusive business models. And those solutions can play a critical role in improving lives of people living at the bottom of the pyramid.
2017 was a year full of many exciting, innovative projects using new technologies, from the use of Virtual Reality to sell toilets, to the development of an alert support system to protect farmer’s crops. We proudly share highlights of this area of work during the last year.
The GEOPOTATO project in Bangladesh explores various IT solutions, such as SMS and voice messaging to reach farmers. The project offers a decision suport service to farmers using weather and satellite data for an optimal control of ´Late blight´ in potato production. Late blight is the most common and highly destructive fungal diseasse in potatoes, tomatoes and solanaceae crops in Bangladesh. (read more)
In this project, virtual reality (VR) is being used as a sales tool to sell toilets and attract low-income consumers in Mozambique. Changing attitudes towards sanitation is one of the most pressing problems faced by low-income households in Mozambique. In this market segment, the toilet is not a priority and, often, other improvements and investments are prioritized. A 3-month pilot with this solution has led to significant sales improvements, including: more customers showing interest after first interaction, reduced time spent per customer, improved recognition, trust and appreciation of the company’s brand and sales agents, and improved motivation of the sales agents. (read more)
Large parts of Africa struggle with setting up proper fecal sludge management. The majority of urban households rely on concrete pits or septic tanks to discharge fecal waste therefore they require regular liquid waste collection. Collection is often done by small businesses that have little market insights and are poorly regulated. This leaves room for illegal disposal and uncontrolled side-business, causing environmental impact and health risks. PULA is a business application that improves liquid waste transport services.
Today, roughly 4.5 billion low-income consumers within the developing world earning less than $8/day collectively spend more than $5 trillion a year on goods and services. This represents more than the middle and higher consumption segments combined! With this much potential at the Base of the Pyramid -and not only in a commercial sense but also in consideration of the abundance of social good that accompanies sustainable growth in these communities- this work points to a new social and economic imperative for the wider global context.
A major challenge that businesses face when attempting to tap into this enormous potential is the problem of accessing and reaching these customers. Whether the product is a solar home system, a toilet, or fast moving consumer goods, businesses face the question of how to get the product to the consumer or the consumer to the service, without incurring enormous costs which make the business model unprofitable. BoP consumers are inaccessible for many reasons: markets are fragmented and thin, conventional low-cost distribution options such as large central stores are irrelevant, consumers lack transport to travel distances,
and taking goods and services to them can be expensive (for distant rural areas with poor infrastructure). Purchases may depend on high-touch marketing and demonstration by people they trust.
Additionally in Africa, youth employment is a growing challenge that has become a top political priority for the region. Young people form a large share of those living in the BoP. The mayority of these youth are likely to have jobs that are typically less stable and have lower earning potenial than older people. Therefore, they are also less likely to obtain financing or access to land.
At BoPInc, we believe that to include and create employment opportunities for young BoP population in the development of projects is fundamental to achieve the maximum social benefit. We have worked with multinational corporations and SMEs alike to tackle the challenges of covering the last mile together with youth underemployment. We have co-created a number of solutions such as using young local sales agents and piggybacking on existing networks that reach low-income consumers, thus increasing employment and income opportunities for these young people.
The main challenge for Promofruits was to diversify from the current sales of pineapple juice to wholesalers and to make the product offering and branding more attractive to low-income consumers. BoP Inc has been supporting them in 2Scale to improve its outreach by launching creative and informative marketing campaigns, rethinking distribution models and testing more cost-effective packaging options. BoPInc in 2Scale also supported Promofruits to come up to a business model to scale-up the number of cargo bikes from 10 to 100. (read more)
GUTS Agro produces a high-protein corn-soya blend that is the first of its kind in Ethiopia. The main challenge of Guts Agro was on their production and product development. Thus, we helped them in 2Scale to develop a BoP product called Super Mom, and also assisted in designing a distribution model to reach the BoP consumers through Likie ladies, who are women entrepreneurs that sell products door-to-door. Likie now operates in five different cities, with more than 50 women micro-franchisees. (read more)
Stawi Foods and Fruits Limited is a food processing business, that has been supplying to big supermarkets on credits thus creating liquidity challenge for the business. We supported them to develop a business plan and undertake market activation activities in low income markets to promote uptake and adoptions of its new 500g porridge products. The activation channels included chamas, door to door, church and retail channels. (read more)
In the following links you will find a selection of impact stories showcasing partnerships, entrepreneurs and customers we work with:
Shining a light on solar distribution: A story of the door-to-door pro project in which local sales ladies are trained and supported in entrepreneurship and to distribute solar products and cook stoves to rural people in Osun, Nigeria. (read more)
Turning a misfortune into fortune: An uplifting story from the KMAP program which is focused on creating a vibrant aquaculture industry that generates sustainable income, employment and food security. Led by Farm Africa and funded by the Dutch Embassy. (read more)
From housewife to entrepreneur: An inspiring story from the PROOFS program which aims to improve the lives of 80,000 households in rural Bangladesh. The focus is to improve food security, prevent malnutrition, and improve water and hygiene of smallholder households. The project is funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in partnership between ICCO Cooperation, iDE and BoPInc. (read more)
2Scale stories: This is a Dutch funded initiative. It is one of the largest incubators of inclusive businesses in Africa with 50 public-private partnerships in 9 African countries. The project strengthens the capacity of smallholder farmers and SMEs to accelerate value chain and private sector development.
o Value Addition: the way to go!: This is a story of Shalem Investments, a growing enterprise with which we went jointly into the journey of developing an added value porridge affordable for low income consumers. (read more)
o Mixing protein with profit: An innovation story in which a local private company is supported to build a closer relationship with its resellers, improve its brand recognition and increase sales. (read more)
At BoP Innovation Center, we like to think outside-the-box to solve some of the biggest challenges at the BoP. Because by being wacky, something else might come of it. Here are 2 of our favourite wacky ideas generated by our team in 2017.
Find more of our wacky ideas here
“Unilever has been working with BoPInc since 2015 and I am proud that I found this “diamond”. They are an organization that has a big value-add to us as Unilever. They are one of the most efficient partners I have worked with. Their first focus is on improving the lives of people living at the BoP, they are doing this through true understanding unlocking the potential of cross-sector collaboration. Their success brokering different partnerships comes from a true technical expertise in social business modeling , their strong and innovative facilitation capabilities and all of this done by purpose driven people.”
Advocacy & Partnerships Director for Women’s Empowerment & Livelihoods in the Chief Sustainability Office at Unilever
“It was a pleasure to work together and I love the clarity that the team brought in terms of framing the tools for user-responsive, market-based research.”
WorldFish Project Leader
“BoPInc since its foundation has been a strategic partner for SNV in several projects, consistently delivering professional and sound inclusive business advisory services in complementarity with our own expertise in the field. Its capacity to quickly adapt to local contexts and effectively identify innovative solutions around business modeling and marketing and distribution strategies makes them a valuable and complementary partner, such as the work currently conducted under the Innovations Against Poverty Fund.”
IAP Multicountry Fund & Excecutive Manager at SNV
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