The AAK Kolo Nafaso programme – Securing an alternative shea supply chain
AAK, a Swedish company providing vegetable oils and fats for various industries for more than 140 years, has been a dominant player processing shea since the 1950s. In 2009 in Burkina Faso, AAK started a project to work directly with West African women with small farm holdings, to improve their productivity as well as pay them fair prices. This project evolved into an alternative supply chain. The shea nuts through this programme – called Kolo Nafaso – were traceable to the women’s group level in West Africa. Kept segregated, the shea was not blended with AAK’s conventional shea supply, such that clients could lay claim to having sustainable and traceable sourced shea, when using Kolo Nafaso shea in their products. This was becoming increasingly important, as focus on sustainability grew among end-consumers, employees, as well as investors. The Kolo Nafaso programme expanded to Ghana, as AAK realized the potential of this alternative supply source, especially in 2018 when there had been a global shortage of shea. The issue was how to significantly grow this alternative sourcing programme, and how to realize its value
Building Sustainable and Socially Impactful Businesses at the Base of the Pyramid
Estimates suggest that four to five billion people live in poverty. Businesses engage with the base of the pyramid (BOP), typically through corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts. Such efforts are laudable but are limited by their budgets. An alternative model would be to engage with the BOP as a sustainable business opportunity. The BOP can be customers as has been shown through the work of Unilever. The BOP also often own assets, such as small parcels of land or a few head of livestock. Likewise, the BOP has skills and labour. These can be sustainably leveraged to the betterment of the BOP. In this paper, I describe three initiatives that are profitably engaging with the poor as customers, providers of labour and providers of raw materials, while at the same time helping the target group lead better lives. Abstracting from these initiatives, I offer a framework for building profitable businesses at the BOP.
Novartis: Building a Sustainable Business at the Bottom of the Pyramid
Inspired by CK Prahalad’s book on the “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid,” Novartis was exploring the possibility of building a sustainable business at the BOP in India. The goal was to create a business that would improve access to healthcare for the poor while being financially profitable, unlike Novartis’s traditional philanthropic and corporate social responsibility approaches. To successfully develop a sustainable business Novartis needed to answer a series of strategic questions: Which BOP patients were the best targets for reaching the social and financial goals of the program? Which diseases should the program cover, and with what types of products (patent protected, generics, OTC)? Which stages of the patient journey should the program address? Which stakeholders should be targeted? What communication channels should be used? What should be the program’s scale? Where to put the social business group in the Novartis organization?
Earthspired: Building a Brand for Social Impact
Mrida (Sanskrit for soil), a recently founded social business venture, had launched the Earthspired brand a year ago to sell products made from high-value plants and herbs, which it sourced sustainably from small and marginal farmers in India, to urban middle class consumers. This was a key initiative for Mrida, and the founders had big ambitions. They wanted to grow the brand in India and internationally. To address this ambition, Mrida needed to address several interconnected questions: What should the consumer value proposition for Earthspired be and how should it be communicated? What was the most appropriate distribution channel – direct selling, retail, or on-line sales? What should be the business strategy to scale the Earthspired brand, given the limited resources available to a fledgling social business venture?
Aarong: Social Enterprise for Bangladesh’s Rural Poor
Aarong, the retail arm of BRAC, a non-profit development organization based in Bangladesh, was created in 1978 to provide employment, income generation and social development opportunities for underprivileged women through the revival and promotion of Bangladeshi handicrafts. Profits from Aarong were used to extend such opportunities to more low-income producers and to cross-subsidize BRAC programmes for the poor. In 30 years, from a single shop, Aarong had grown into one of Bangladesh’s biggest retail chains. Its products ranged from clothing, household items, gifts and fashion accessories to children’s toys. The competition, however, was intensifying, both from local retailers in individual categories as well as foreign players, such as from India. How could Aarong compete in a global market? How could it leverage the brand, improve quality to match machine-made consistency, and keep prices competitive, while maintaining its social mission?
BASIX: Microfinance is but a Part of the Solution
BASIX, headquartered in Hyderabad, was the brand name of a group of entities with 6,000 outlets offering financial and livelihood promotion services throughout rural India. Despite its impressive progress in poverty alleviation, raising funds to continue such work was increasingly challenging, as BASIX found when it sought to raise Rs 2.5 billion in capital from private equity investors in late 2010. Not only did the diffuse nature of its work make valuation complex (the standard method would have been to take the sum of its parts and add a premium for the synergies between the entities using the discounted cash flow method ), but investors preferred simpler business models where the service/goods sold broadly met the same set of needs. One that met such diverse needs and spread across so many sectors was harder to figure out, as well as harder to scale up, making investment less attractive. Without scale it was hard to get capital; without capital it was hard to scale up. The question that Basix is grappling with is how best to position itself going forward.
Arogya Parivar – Novartis’ BOP strategy for healthcare in rural India
There was a large segment of low-income population comprising about 1.2 billion people, with incomes between US$2-5 a day with no bank accounts, no access to modern financial services, no phones, dependent on informal or subsistence livelihoods and lacked access to amenities and basic healthcare. Addressing these unmet needs could create significant market opportunities for businesses while also contributing to social goals. This was particularly true in the healthcare market, where the BOP had long been underserved. Many Asian and African countries, where the BOP typically were, faced the double burden of infectious diseases and increasing rates of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases etc. Novartis decided that it was time to seriously consider the possibility of commercial opportunities amongst the world’s poor, notably India.