Krishi Utsho or KU, the CARE social enterprise initiative focused on improving the accessibility of agriculture inputs and services in rural Bangladesh, recently participated in an optional design challenge as part of the Human-Centered Design (HCD) Accelerator lab. They blended HCD with positive deviance* to look at one of their most successful franchisees, Saiful Islam Sumon, who owns three stores- the most of any franchisee. Continue reading to find out what was learned and then what was done about it!
What does Saiful do differently than other franchisees that makes him so successful?
1. He tailors the format of transaction register books. Krishi Utsho trains all its franchisees to use a general register book format that is uniform for every business size and growth trajectory. But Saiful tailored his register book format to fit the size of his business and growth. He also tracks purchase habits and credit records for each customer, which gives him a deeper knowledge and understanding of them. This change addressed an issue felt by other franchisees who find the traditional register book to be cumbersome and therefore often fail to maintain the credit record
2. Saiful breaks down the bulky 25 kg pack of cattle feed into easier-to-see 1 kg packs. Why? Because he consulted his customers who preferred small-unit packaging in order to keep the quality of the product intact and were even willing to pay a premium to get it. This innovation set Saiful apart from other franchisees who do not repackage but rather supply lower quality product since it slowly deteriorated once the 25 kg pack was open until it was finished.
What else did we learn about the farmers?
In addition to learning about the farmers preference for the items packaged in small quantities, even at a higher price, the KU team learned something about their preferred method for product promotions.
Most of the farmers indicated a preference for miking (promotions using a microphone and loudspeakers) since both the farmers and other household members pay attention to this type of advertisements. TV and radio advertisements can be easily missed and leaflets miss an entire audience segment because of illiteracy. Text and voice message promotions are also not preferred since users tend to ignore most of the commercials transmitted by cell phone companies.
Ok…so what’s the problem?
The miking advertisement strategy only allows for unidirectional communication so KU struggles to learn from farmers about their demand and satisfaction with KU’s products and services. The absence of a formal information channel between farmers, input shops and suppliers leads to asymmetric information between different stakeholders, the outcomes of which include adulteration of inputs and weak credit management.
Wait- why is this so important?
KU views the development of a customer database that will collect, store and maintain consumer-level information on input purchases and consumer feedback to facilitate demand forecasts, appropriate packaging, and in-store credit as an essential component of its business moving forward. This system will capture data from all of the 400 – 600 customers that visit each shop every month.
So what did we do about it? We prototyped!
To address this issue, KU applied the tenets of Human Centered Design (HCD) to prototype a solution and test it at the field level during the optional design challenge. KU prototyped the use of a suggestion box placed in the front of the shop, which allows customers to fill out a feedback form after purchases. The form itself asks simple, pictorial, self-explanatory questions regarding the current purchase as well as the customers’ experience regarding previous purchases. To motivate farmers to fill out the form, KU will randomly select a farmer through a lottery-style prize drawing every month. KU is now testing this prototype in a single store. The response from the customers so far has been very good.
KU’s long-term strategy is to transition to an ICT-based feedback collection system to support rapid expansion. As such, they’ll prototype using a toll-free number where consumers will voluntarily provide feedback and employing two dedicated people who collect data over the phone. This intervention will allow KU to choose customers to provide data according to KU’s needs.
Special thanks to GRID Impact for helping us create the Design Challenge and coaching the Bangladesh team!
*What is positive deviance? It’s an international development approach based on “the observation that in every community there are certain individuals or groups whose uncommon behaviors and strategies enable them to find better solutions to problems than their peers, while having access to the same resources and facing similar or worse challenges.” Learn more at positivedeviance.org!