Cases and Early Lessons from the Scaling Demand at the Base of the Pyramid Working Group

October 12, 2018

Establishing demand for social impact goods or services is often a complex and resource intensive process as it frequently requires changing or establishing new behaviors. Scaling demand in BoP markets is ever more difficult and cost prohibitive partly due to market heterogeneity and the lack of formal marketing and communication channels. For this reason, in 2018 PIA members convened a working group to explore the most innovative ways that organizations have tried to scale-up demand for new products and services in BOP communities emphasizing in particular lessons around achieving optimal balance between cost effectiveness and adoption.

Since being launched at MIT during the PIA Annual Meeting, this working group “Scaling Demand at the BoP” co-led by BoP Inc. has examined half a dozen cases of businesses which in seeking to expand the reach of their product and/or service have had to evaluate and iterate their value proposition so as to align with market demand.

The cases selected thus far focus on strategies social enterprises and corporations have undertaken to better reach consumers, generate and grow demand, and leverage strategic assets through financing, ICT, and partnerships. Through these sessions, PIA members have been exploring the ingredients to scale demand and pitfalls that should be avoided when seeking to do so cost effectively and have examined several of the following questions.

Working group cases presented to date

  • SCJ: Improving awareness of and access to malaria prevention interventions in Rwanda
  • Kopernik: Selling clean energy technologies to last-mile consumers in Eastern Indonesia through its Wonder Women program
  • Triggerise: Leveraging technology and innovation through its Tikosystem to scale demand in BoP markets (India and Kenya in particular)
  • Unilever Nigeria: Scaling the Shakti model from India to create livelihoods opportunities for last mile communities in Nigeria
  • Copia: Leveraging e-commerce to build connections with small retailers to sell a wide range of products across Kenya

Early lessons learned so far

Validation of value proposition with customers is not only the starting point but should be revisited again and again. The cases the working group has explored have used customer validation as step number one, but the more successful cases have introduced iterative processes and feedback loops into their strategies so as to revisit and reaffirm the value proposition of their product for target consumers.

Setting the right target for scale varies. Choosing what is feasible given your market value proposition can depend on the market – whether it is more heterogenous or homogenous.

Learning what hasn’t worked is just as important as learning what has. Scaling demand is never a linear strategy and the cases have emphasized the importance of learning along the way to adapt your marketing strategy.

Through the end of the year, the working group will explore three additional cases from Population Services International (PSI), Pact, and World Vision International. Our collaborators from BoP Inc. have partnered with MIT D-Lab to work towards aggregating the knowledge of these online learning sessions to produce a relevant, process-oriented delivery framework that can provide inclusive business practitioners with strategies to enhance and scale demand in BoP markets. This framework will help bring forth best practices and growth hacking strategies for organizations to first align internal processes around key considerations such as sales data, agents, marketing, and user growth so as to then achieve the right cost-effective demand strategy.

We look forward to working with our PIA members, case collaborators, and BoP Inc. partners on the next few cases and on developing another practical PIA tool that helps development practitioners scale demand for inclusive business products and services!

-- Amanda Epting, MIT D-Lab