We support companies to develop and deliver innovative products, services and business models that improve the lives of people living at the Base of the Pyramid (BoP).
Our market-based approach begins with the BoP, as potential consumers, distributors, producers and/or entrepreneurs. We focus on delivering practical solutions that are commercially viable and based on deep market insights. We understand what the BoP actually wants, needs and can afford. We have to start looking at the BoP as ambitious consumers and creative entrepreneurs. We promote inclusive business: doing well (making a profit) by doing good (serving a social cause).
Marketing & Distribution
There are no quick wins in BoP markets. Building a business case in low-income markets is challenging and causes many companies to give up. BoPInc embraces these challenges and believes in the power of persistence and creativity in order to go the extra mile and reach underserved consumers.
Our services focus on consumers and are complimentary to traditional development approaches. By doing so, we want to open the blackbox that is the BoP consumer.
Support companies to market, brand and distribute their products to the BoP. Deliver relevant and viable value propositions to the BoP.
Capacitate organisations and individuals on inclusive business and entrepreneurship. Strengthen the context for inclusive business.
Create new products and services using design thinking together with partners, producers and consumers. Accelerate inclusive innovations to spark business for BoP markets.
Doing business with the BoP is a numbers game. It is essential to think big and build scalable business models that will reach the 4 billion people living at the BoP. But the BoP is also diverse and local context matters, a consumer in rural Kenya is very different from a consumer in the slums of Dhaka.
In the near future we believe people at the BoP might have access to a completely new set of experiences that they can use to guide their daily decision making. Maybe they will avoid littering as they have already seen glimpses of what the future holds, or perhaps they will hire a woman for the new position after having briefly inhabited the world as a member of the opposite sex.
Widening up the realm of possible life experiences in this way may sound utterly otherworldly, but the recent emergence of virtual reality (VR) technology has put these types of experiences within reach.
While much of the talk around VR today stems from developments at the cutting edge of the medium, there is also a parallel push to make VR more accessible, opening up its uses to include initiatives that target people living in low-income areas.
The potential for VR in these places is largely unexplored and demands significant attention, especially given how the spread of the technology is only set to increase.
We have already begun experimenting with the medium. In 2016, we kicked off our explorations with VR, hoping to familiarise ourselves and our clients with this new technology, and the possibilities and limitations that come with it.
The immersive experience of VR can be truly inspiring. The topics we talk about come to life when we offer workshop participants and company executives the opportunity to ‘visit’ the BoP.
Field observations are an important part of the innovation journey, but these are costly and time-consuming. While we can’t replace the need for real field trips, we can make them more effective by starting with VR.
When we train people to replicate a distribution model that we have worked on elsewhere, VR offers the possibility to take them there.
In 2016 we partnered in a number of multi-annual major programs.
From Ghana to Bangladesh, we’re showing you six of these programs. To bring our work closer to you we zoom in on three specific projects worth sharing: Novos Horizontes in Mozambique, Shakti+ in Nigeria and last but not least, we share the story of a Nutrition sales agent in Bangladesh.
Over the entire year, BoP Innovation Center was involved in
spread across the public and private programs we’ve been working in.
The 2SCALE project is one of the largest agribusiness incubators in Africa, working with farmers and small-scale entrepreneurs to improve rural livelihoods and food and nutrition security in nine countries in Africa. Within the project we build agribusiness clusters, we strengthen business support services and assist in developing BoP products and markets. We focus on four themes that cut across the chain: Youth Employment, Access to Information, Women Inclusion and Access to Finance. The goal is to deepen and scale over 50 public-private partnerships in nine focus countries in Africa, which together will offer opportunity to at least 500,000 smallholder farmers (of which 40% will be women) to improve their livelihoods and to at least 2,500 SME’s (of which 40% will be female-headed) to improve sales and provide jobs, while sustainably supplying food to regional, national and local markets.
More info: www.2scale.org
The goal is to support companies (i.e. Soy Afric and Smart Logistics Solutions) to assess marketability of nutritious food products targeted towards low income customers in Kenya and develop a bankable business plan. Soy Afric wanted to expand markets for their porridge flours and Smart Logistics Solutions wanted to launch new pre-cooked beans product called ’frejols’. BoPIncs role in the project was to conduct market research in order to determine the marketability of their products to low-income markets. In collaboration with the companies, we developed a marketing strategy targeted towards low-income consumers and a business plan. Both companies were awarded with $100.000 investment each to implement their marketing plan.
More info: www.gainmarketplace.com/kenya
The Amsterdam Initiative against Malnutrition (AIM) is a Dutch partnership model that brings different stakeholders together to improve food and nutrition security. Together, we develop innovative, market-based solutions to malnutrition in Africa and Asia. All partners in AIM contribute specific expertise. The participating companies, Unilever, DSM, AkzoNobel, SPAR and Rijk Zwaan are experts in developing, marketing and selling safe and high quality products, ranging from seeds to food supplements. The BoP Innovation Center supports the various AIM projects in two ways. We provide technical advice to AIM projects on Inclusive Business modelling and finance, and we deliver the AIM learning agenda. The learning Agenda is set out to facilitate learning, knowledge sharing and knowledge creation between AIM projects.
More info: www.gainhealth.org/aim
BoPInc is a partner in the Kenya Market-Led Aquaculture Programme (KMAP), led by Farm Africa and funded by the Dutch embassy, which aims to create a vibrant aquaculture industry that generates sustainable income, employment and food security. The program aims to increase production levels to the tipping point, needed for input suppliers to be commercially viable and to increase access to markets for fish farmers and input suppliers. Our role is focused on improving access to markets and developing viable business models for the various value chain actors, including input suppliers, fish farmers, traders and retailers/institutions. Based on a consumer insight study that BoPInc conducted at the beginning of the project, we developed a business development training curriculum that is tailored to the aquaculture value chain and the demands in the market.
Approximately 50 million inhabitants of Bangladesh lack access to nutritious food and other basic needs. PROOFS improves food security for farmers’ households in rural Bangladesh. The PROOFS approach includes small scale farmers, retailers, traders, financial institutions and (local) government institutions. Smallholder farmers are being organized in competitive farm business groups and connected to actors who can improve their capability to produce sufficient and nutritious food.
The targeted results are twofold: Increased sales and turnover and an improvement of the farmers’ nutritional status.
PROOFS provides farmers with business skills such as BoP Innovation Center has developed a nutrition strategy based on the model described above. The current door-to-door distribution model implemented by the consortium employs almost 1000 female nutrition sales agents (NSAs) leveraging partnership with JITA in order to reach 80,000 households. In parallel, PROOFS developed social marketing tools based on Sensemaker customer insight studies. This route-to-market proposition has attracted multinationals like Unilever and DSM as well as local companies that provide a range of valuable products that improve nutrition, sanitation and health of BoP communities. The current partnerships and positive intermediate results in terms of impact creation allows for a sustainable exit strategy.
More info: www.proofsbangladesh.org
In 2009, the Government of Mozambique created the Administração de Infraestruturas de Abastecimento de Água e Saneamento (AIAS) to provide leadership to these water and sanitation developments in the 130 peri-urban centres. The goal of AIAS is to develop innovative models that contribute to water and sanitation improvements in Mozambique. BopInc, as member of the Dutch consortium lead by VEI, supports AIAS in improving access to water and sanitation services in at least 15 peri-urban project towns with a population of over 700,000. The main project activities include technical assistance towards the building of AIAS’ organizational capacity, capacity building for water and sanitation operators in the selected towns, investments in water and sanitation infrastructure and developing innovative business models for water and sanitation operators. BoPInc scouts and facilitates private sector parties to implement sustainable innovative technologies and concepts.
Failure is inevitable in our sector. Getting products and services to the BoP market, which is volatile, complex and full of rough conditions, is a major challenge. In this environment, it’s no surprise that about 90% of innovation projects fail. So if we know that a lot of our work will likely result in failure, what can we do to increase the odds of our success? Fail faster. Accepting failure for what it is and being open about it, we hope, will help others to avoid making the same mistakes and succeed sooner.
Goal: Supporting the development of chicken producer Novos Horizontes’ agricultural value chain, from farmers to fork.
Duration: January 2016 – December 2017
Role BoPInc: Supporting Novos Horizontes in developing products that are relevant for the BoP, and to develop related marketing and distribution strategies. Central part of this project is to involve local resellers, informal distributors that market and sell chicken to smaller kiosks and market sales-men.
Pedro buys 5000 kilos of chicken per week from Novos Horizontes and sells them to small kiosks and market salesmen. This way, he gets a premium and nutritious product to the BoP. Pedro has a small warehouse with 10 freezers and a shop next to it. His wife runs the shop, while he sells the chicken to his returning clients at the warehouse and goes out to find new customers. He is a small scale business owner that works really hard to become succesfull.
With the help of Novos Horizontes and BoPInc, Pedro was able to upgrade his shop and paint it in the company colors. A menu with the items he sells, a sign with the name of the shop, flags and a Novos Horizontes logo will be added as well. Now people can see he is a professional reseller and he will get more customers. His top clients also get matching attire (aprons, hats, shirts) to display professionality. In the 2SCALE program, BoPInc helps about eight ‘Pedro’s’, and with them up to 80 small kiosks and marketsalesmen to get the chicken to the BoP. We also introduced smaller packaging, to make the product more affordable for BoP consumers. The more chicken is sold, the more soy and maize will be needed for the chicks. With that, local farmers are supported as well.
Goal: Design and pilot a rural distribution model that delivers (nutritious) products, empowers women and changes consumers’ behavior.
Duration: July 2015 – March 2018
Role BoPInc: Partnership facilitator, development of business case, marketing and distribution expertise. In 2016, BoPInc collaborated with Unilever in the Shakti+ program in Nigeria. Shakti+ aims to empower rural sales ladies to not only sell aspirational products to rural communities, but also realize behavioral change in the field of nutrition and oral care. In partnership with Unilever, GAIN, GBF, SFH/PSI and SharpEnd, we designed and implemented the model showing promising results on both business and social metrics. Together we’re planning for scale up to thousands of sales ladies.
Imole, an aspiring fashion designer from Nigeria, sells Unilever products (among others) to her neighbours door to door, saving them the trouble of having to travel long distance on foot to get to the nearest market. In her training, Imole learned to use an illustrative flip chart. She explains that she teaches other women about how the effects of anaemia can get worse by menstruation, malaria and malnutrition. A remedy, she has learned, is to use Knorr iron-fortified bouillon cubes while eating more green leafy vegetables to increase iron intake.
Imole’s neighbour Tayo, has experienced the benefits. She attributes changes in her daughter’s strength, thanks to increased iron consumption.
Goal: Increasing farmer households income, reduce health related costs and improve nutrition in rural Bangladesh.
Duration: July 2013 – June 2017
Role BoPInc: We conducted market research to understand dynamics, preferences and consumer behavior of the BoP and developed a door-to-door sales, marketing and distribution model that empowers 320 Nutrition Sales Agents (NSA). A social marketing toolkit was developed, that includes activation campaigns such as mobile movies, cooking competitions and nutrition fairs. We also set up private sector partnerships to increase access to nutrition and hygiene products.
Households reached: 80.000
Total sales: €470.000
nutrition and hygiene products
“What do you think this is?” asks Moriom, a Nutrition Sales Agent (NSA), while holding up a package with strange looking grains in it. “It looks like rice” the group responds. “That’s right, these are rice kernels that contain extra nutrients. When you boil them with normal rice you’ll get healthier.”
35 Bangladeshi women are crowded in an iron sheet shack with posters covering the windows to keep curious children from climbing in. Sitting with bare feet on a rug on the floor they listen to Moriom as she explains how to use this new nutritious product and how much it costs.
Moriom is one of the 320 NSAs within the PROOFS project in Bangladesh that combines behaviour change messaging and counseling, to sell nutrition and hygiene products door-to-door in their community. She has been an NSA since early 2016. She is married and has two young children. She spends about 28 hours per week, and visits about 200 households in a month. Being an NSA makes Moriom feel more independent, it has improved her social status.
We combine strategic thinking and ‘simply getting things done’ attitude. This entrepreneurial mindset was recognized by one of our partners, who referred to us as ‘nimble’. Meaning quick and light in movement or action, and able to think and understand quickly. For us, nimble remains a mindset we will bring to our work in 2017.
Low-income markets are often referred to as ‘the last frontier’. The rules of the game in business are often different from what managers in Western markets are used to. In order to be successful it is essential that we keep an open perspective, which is why we often leave behind conventional thinking and business models.
After three build-up years working as a consortium of SNV, VC4A and Nyenrode Business University, and lead by BoP Innovation Center, the Inclusive Business Accelerator became an independent foundation on January 1st, 2017. Innovative partnerships are paving the way to new service lines, such as the hosting of application centers for acceleration programs, and the growing IBA Partner Network ensures continuous quality insurance of trainings and advisory services. Through this new set-up, IBA strives to sharpen its offering towards inclusive business practitioners.
The Inclusive Business Accelerator is a foundation that accelerates inclusive business online and offline to increase venture impact. With our network partners, we do this by offering pipeline management, capacity building programme and match making facilitation between communities of ventures, advisors and investors. In the past year, IBA reached new heights. With six online bootcamps offered, 2500 registered participants, more than 300 ventures supported, and a 200% growth in user registration, IBA strengthened its value proposition for inclusive business entrepreneurs.
More info: https://iba.ventures
Are you working on a promising, innovative and scalable business in a BoP market? Then IBA is the place to present your company and get connected to investors and business coaches. It starts by registering your profile!
We have built a structure that supports the delivery inclusive business plans ready for investment that improve the well-being of people at the BoP. Ventures listed as ‘fundraising’ are in the scaling phase and require investments between USD $100K and USD $10 million. Register as an investor!
Do you guide entrepreneurs on their journey of scaling their inclusive business? Join the community of advisors and respond to requests of entrepreneurs and opportunities of organisations on the Advisory Marketplace!
Even though we feel like we are on the right path, we are fully aware of the need to keep pushing the limits to continue working at the edge of innovation, delivering projects with an entrepreneurial spirit and acquiring new exciting work. At the same time, we will focus more on gathering data as to understand the effectiveness of our work and the impact on the BoP. In the end, that’s why we are here. Thanks to all partners and clients for giving us the opportunity to do this exciting work!
Arthur van Schendelstraat 500
3511 MH Utrecht
BoP Innovation Center
P.O. Box 19219
3501 DE Utrecht
Grass Company, BoPInc,
Ranak Martin, iDE, PROOFS