Use of Partnerships in Haiti for Distributing Solar Lamps
In 2009 SAFICO, a private company, decided to try to develop the market for solar lamps in Haiti with the hope of eventually making a profit. We called the new line MicamaSoley and started importing Barefoot Power products, later we added dlight design, OmniVoltaic and BBOXX. We were already manufacturing and distributing mattresses on the local market but we realized that we needed a different kind of distribution method for solar lamps. Rather than try to set up our own network we approached Fonkoze, the largest MFI in Haiti, and asked them if they would be interested in a partnership.
Fonkoze allowed us to have access to their credit customers and in each of their 45 branches we were able to recruit several re-sellers who would market our products to other credit customers and to the general public. This partnership was very successful and we have been able to sell more than 50,000 solar lamps through Fonkoze. The women who became our resellers could add our products to their existing businesses making them more diversified and more profitable. Fonkoze also benefited from the improved profitability of their clients who could make payments on their loans more easily. Win – Win – Win. Having used Fonkoze’s existing network saved us a lot of time and we were able to roll the model out to 45 branches in only six months, training over 1,000 resellers in the first year. This would not have been possible if we had started from scratch. The fact that we were being introduced to the women by Fonkoze enabled them to trust us; it would have been much more difficult if we just tried to cold call market women without an introduction. This worked both ways, as the women that Fonkoze introduced us to were their best credit clients. After the first year we started paying Fonkoze a commission on sales.
We also developed a partnership with CARE who have a program of Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs). In this program CARE trains Village Agents (VAs) who are responsible for training local groups on the CARE model of savings groups. The VAs supervise several VSLAs at the same time and the VSLAs are supposed to pay them for their services. CARE had the idea that if the VAs could be trained to sell solar lamps that this would make them more financially independent. We trained about 100 VAs to be resellers of solar lamps and through this channel we have been able to sell over 5,500 solar lamps and improved charcoal stoves. CARE also received a commission on sales.
Another partnership was with Arc Finance, an American NGO, and SogeXpress, a Haitian money transfer outfit. Arc Finance had a project to try to channel remittances from Haitian immigrants, living in the USA, into the purchase of solar products for their families in Haiti. In addition to supplying products, MicamaSoley provided training for their sales agents and put a lot of effort into after sales service, repairing or replacing defective items; we even took back and recharged several thousand solar lamps whose batteries had discharged after sitting on SogeXpress’s shelves for too long. MicamaSoley’s full commitment to this project contributed to its success, selling over 9,000 lamps in a little more than a year.
In each of these partnerships we were able to leverage existing assets and relationships which allowed us to reach a volume of sales that we could not have attained on our own. It is important to look at the partnership from the other side to anticipate what the other partner is looking for. One very useful publication I stumbled upon that gives this perspective is called Stretching the Fabric of MFI Networks from the Monitor Group. It is about using MFI networks to sell non financial products and services.
Find out more about Micama Soley here.