The GDC and Finding Impact present…
The GDC (Global Distributors Collective) is a collective of over 140 last mile distribution companies (LMDs) selling beneficial products like solar lights, clean cookstoves and water filters, to underserved customers. The Finding Impact Podcast helps entrepreneurs around the world to launch, finance and scale their social businesses. This podcast collaboration was, thus, a match made in heaven: aligned in vision and ambition, the GDC and Finding Impact came together to amplify the voices of LMDs who triumphed over adversity – and to share their stories with others.
Adaptation is survival
Due to the nature of the customers they serve – often rural, remote and low-income groups – LMDs face additional challenges compared to businesses operating in other markets and contexts. From experiencing poor infrastructure, which prevents access to last mile communities and drives up overhead costs, to a general lack of understanding of the sector among many donors and investors, LMDs have to work hard to hone their business models and establish a profitable company. Critical to their success is the ability to adapt to changing environments and seize opportunities when they arise. The LMDs featured in this podcast series did just that.
From embarking on a journey of merger, to making significant changes to their distribution and financing models in order to achieve greater sales, scale and impact, these tales of innovation by GDC members provide the rest of us with food for thought…
Podcast 1: How to pivot a distribution model from door-to-door to retail (EcoFiltro)
Realising its community entrepreneur model was simply unsustainable and unprofitable, EcoFiltro – a water filter distributor in Guatamala - switched to a retail approach. Key to this decision was the company’s consistent measurement and use of key sales data. Pivoting to leverage a network of retail outlets to on-sell products has resulted in an increase in EcoFiltro’s product sales and, ultimately, end-user impacts. To hear more about EcoFiltro’s experience, click here.
Podcast 2: How to manage a merger of like-minded social enterprises (Pollinate Group)
The story of Empower Generation (India) and Pollinate Energy (Nepal) becoming ‘Pollinate Group’ is a story of impact over ego. Seeing the vast potential of coming together under one identity and remit – employing women entrepreneurs to sell solar energy products in urban slums – these two organisations jumped head first into the unknown. But their risk paid off: forcing both organisations to adapt, question, and embrace change, the merger has enabled Pollinate Group to achieve economies of scale and tap into new and different funding opportunities. To learn more about the merger, click here.
How to pivot from a cash-based to a PAYGO model (Altech)
In the third and final episode, Altech explores its evolution from a solar lighting company providing cash-sales only, to offering their customers products on credit, and finally pivoting to an entirely PAYG model in partnership with PAYG provider Angaza. Embracing a PAYG model has helped Altech to prevent ‘leakage’ through end-to-end payments, strengthen head office sales oversight and increase efficiencies in time and money. It was not without its challenges, however; to delve deeper, click here.
The GDC provides a collective voice for distributors; drives research and innovation across the sector; facilitates the exchange of information, insight and expertise; and provides critical services that leverage economies of scale. To find out more, visit the website or get in touch with the team directly: GDC[at]practicalaction.org.uk