As mentioned in a previous post, technology can empower the poor economically and create a system of checks and balances. However, creating technologies for the developing world is not enough if there is no distribution infrastructure in place to get products to the people in need. An innovative India based company called Essmart Global is addressing exactly this issue and is trying to revolutionise distribution and supply chains.
In January, the Essmart Global team launched a pilot project in India and will be starting up full-time operations in August. Instead of focusing on very rural areas straight away, they will first distribute products to the outskirts of cities. The first products will be LED lights or water filters, because they are cheap enough to be purchased while still being an investment, costing between $10 and $30. The company will demonstrate the products to local shop owners and cooperate with school teachers and local children to spread the word about the availability of those technologies.
Essmart Global chooses products that have a warranty and educate the shop owners on how to get parts or send products away for repair instead of throwing them away if they don’t work anymore. The company also incentivises shop owners to stock their catalogue and demonstration products. Deliveries are made on a scheduled basis or show owners can pick up technologies at Essmart’s warehouse in person.
The Essmart Global team believes that India is a perfect place to launch because of the country’s vast population and the fact that many products they endorse are already available there but not widely distributed. Once they have the Indian market covered, they can go elsewhere, leveraging the existing retail-shop network around the world, with products tailored to specific regions. At the same time the company is making a pitch for improving the system, not just the technologies. They want to bring the distribution challenge into the spotlight and help to overcome it. For its effort to help underprivileged communities around the world, Essmart Global has recently won the grand prize in Dell’s Social Innovation Competition.