Make it easier for customers to use your product

August 13, 2012

Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

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No matter how elegant a product is or how many features it packs, if a consumer’s more basic needs are not met, you won’t get any buyers. It’s fairly obvious that you can’t sell someone a refrigerator if they don’t have electricity. But how many refrigeration companies are out there making it easier for consumers to gain access to electricity?

Oxfam International, an international confederation of 17 organizations, has stepped up to tackle to obstacles standing in front of those who want to receive an education. In Wajir, in northeastern Kenya, Oxfam has acted to eliminate the main diverter of schoolchildren to the classroom: the daily need to secure water for the survival of their family and herds. Read more »

Sunday Morning Coffee: Chocolate Covered Wasabi Beans

August 12, 2012

There aren’t many edible items that sound more gross to me than chocolate covered wasabi beans.  Yet, they are exactly the kind of treat that can attract a crowd.  What can you learn from this?

First – being different is important.  Wasabi goes with sushi, and Id never put chocolate on my tempura roll, but somehow the combination is unique enough to grab your attention.

Different is memorable and exciting–mundane is drab and uninspiring. Read more »

Industry Clusters

August 9, 2012

Did you ever notice that industries & similar jobs tend to cluster in particular areas?  Tech in Silicon Valley, Film in Hollywood, Finance in New York, Oil and Gas in Saudi Arabia, Construction in Dubai, and so on.

Similarly, culturally uniform groups tend to pursue similar jobs or industries, particularly among immigrants.  These acts of clustering can be explained in part through the concepts of influence spreading through social networks, as described by Fowler and Christakis in the book Connected.

For instance, the Economist just ran an article on Thai’s travelling to Sweden for the annual berry-picking seasonal jobs.  If that isn’t a microcosm example of policy influence/clustering, etc. I’m not sure what is. Read more »

Black-out: SocEnt-in, Please!

August 2, 2012

India’s massive power outage this week underscores the need for social enterprises in the energy sector.

Like most developing countries, India is well accustomed to rolling power outages and brown-outs, but even this week’s power crash was a shock to the system.

While the power outage technically affected most of the country, the primary victims were those in poorer areas and rural villages.  However, as I said, the victims were no stranger to power outages.  Many solutions to this issue have been devised.

The most effective solution is to run a diesel fuel generator in order to power your home or business.  With fuel prices as high as they are, this is an expensive (and environmentally damaging) proposition only available to the wealthiest.

Those without fuel for generators must turn to alternate solutions or do without.  For shop-owners, doing without electricity is often not just a mere inconvenience—it means days of no income.  When you are living hand-to-mouth anyways, a few days income lost can be devastating. Read more »

Microinsurance potential increases in Asia

July 30, 2012

Droughts in the Indian Sub-Continent.  Flooding in East Asia.  These disastrous occurrences are trending towards becoming more of a frequent reality as our global climate shifts.

Shifts in weather patterns have a global ripple effect, but present the largest danger for farmers at the Bottom of the Pyramid.  Their livelihood depends on consistent (or at least somewhat predictable) weather patterns.

The increased unpredictability of rainfall is opening the door for something the micro finance industry desperately needs: a fresh promising face.


Yes, it has been around for a little while now, but the penetration rate for micro insurance (in India, for example) are pitifully low.  There exists a large opportunity for MFIs to expand their offerings, not to mention show off the customer service skills they’ve since learned from the rocky micro-loan early days.

The Financial Times  has sung the praises of micro insurance as the next big product in micro finance; where will MFIs fit into this expanding area of opportunity?


- Chris

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