How Can We Achieve Greater Scale and Impact Supporting Small Businesses?

Photo: SABMiller.  4e participant and her mentor, Peru.

To mark Global Partnership Week (www.p3.co), join us for a live, online discussion of ways to achieve greater scale and impact in our efforts to strengthen small businesses.

 

The CSR Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School and Business Fights Poverty recently completed a report on SABMiller’s new 4e Path to Progress program in Latin America—a partnership with FUNDES and the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank that aims to empower nearly 200,000 small retailers at the base of the pyramid by 2020.

 

The report identifies emerging lessons and key strategic questions facing 4e on the journey to scale. Many of these are common to enterprise development programs across regions and industry sectors, and we know that other organizations, in addition to ourselves, have some of the same questions—and their own valuable experience and insight to share.

 

Please join us on Tuesday, March 10, 10:30-11:30am Eastern Time / 2:30-3:30pm GMT to explore the following questions, exchange your insights, and help spark some new ideas:

 

  1. What is the business case for companies to help strengthen the small businesses in their value chains?
  2. How can technology be employed to increase scale and impact at a reduced cost per participant?
  3. Where do policy drivers most need to change to enable small businesses to succeed, and how can companies and their development partners influence these drivers?
  4. What is the scope for broader alliances of companies, donors, governments, and civil society organizations to work together to strengthen small businesses?

 

This event is part of a one-week special with SABMiller on helping small businesses thrive.  Click here to read the blogs in the series.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE EVENT SUMMARY.

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Hi everybody! Happy to participate in this so interesting panel and for the chance of sharing.

What we have seen is that small businesses are key components of the value chain of many large companies. It’s not just that they are one of the most important distribution channels in term of sales and volume; but also that they have major impact in brand loyalty, access to new markets, and market intelligence.

Small retailers give large companies great geographical coverage and, most importantly, local presence. This local presence gets transformed first brand recognition and, eventually, into brand loyalty. And brand loyalty means sales.

Small retailers are of such great interest to developmental institutions because they are mostly located in poor residential neighborhoods where the neediest tend to live. Improving these small stores means impacting in their surrounding communities and is one way to contribute to their development (which obviously requires a much more comprehensive support). In turn, this growth will involve an increase in acquisition power and, as such, a larger market to carter for large companies.   

Last but not least, the proximity of small retailers to their clients favors quick feedback on new products, marketing campaigns, etc. allowing for adjustments and experimentation.

In other words: small business matter, and matter a lot!

I am ready!

We encourage questions and comments by our participants around the world as well.

I also think within these comments its important to tease out two elements of this from the business perspective - is it a risk-oriented situation or an opportunity for new growth?  Oftentimes on the supply input side, businesses are trying to address supply chain oriented risks and so the case is made around the seriousness of those risks and how it impacts their ability to do business.  On the retailer side, I think it's often about a new growth opportunity - how can partnering with and influencing the excellence of retailers help drive additional growth opportunities.  Both the upstream and downstream side may have brand benefits as well especially among the direct partners of the investing company.



Jane Nelson said:

Let's get started with our first question. What is the business case for companies to help strengthen the small businesses in their value chains?

In relation to small shopkeepers and 4e, for many companies small shops are a distribution channel that in some cases represents 50% of total sales. Strengthening shopkeepers is strengthening an important distribution channel. The interesting aspect for an organization like the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF or Fondo Multilateral de Inversiones FOMIN in Spanish) is the concept of using this potential to reach every corner of any low-income community to deliver goods and services that can help improving the standard of living of the population and the socio-economic development these communities.

Savvy large businesses know that investing in their supply chains can build the productivity and reliability of their suppliers. Without these critical investments the large businesses become uncompetitive.
  • Through ‘4e, Camino al Progreso’ SABMiller contributes to the progress of communities by investing in their social and human capital and driving the creation of new paths to action that increase their capacity to prosper. 

Next question: while there is in theory a strong business case, we know that the execution is complex and can be costly depending on the locations of the retailers and the depth of support they require.

How can technology be employed to increase scale and impact at a reduced cost per participant?

Love to hear examples from our audience as well!

Very good point. Unless the real motivations (sales driven, risk mitigation, etc.) are perfectly understood by all the participant partners, the collaboration won't be successful.
 
Justin Bakule said:

I also think within these comments its important to tease out two elements of this from the business perspective - is it a risk-oriented situation or an opportunity for new growth?  Oftentimes on the supply input side, businesses are trying to address supply chain oriented risks and so the case is made around the seriousness of those risks and how it impacts their ability to do business.  On the retailer side, I think it's often about a new growth opportunity - how can partnering with and influencing the excellence of retailers help drive additional growth opportunities.  Both the upstream and downstream side may have brand benefits as well especially among the direct partners of the investing company.

Social media platforms like the one that we are using today greatly reduce costs in reaching target audiences. At the U.S. Department of State we started experimenting with these platforms long before they were mainstream.

When looking at the upstream supply chain investments, it's important to understand both the proximity to business strategy and the seriousness of the perceived risk by comparing the scale and scope of investments being made against the scale or scope of the problem at hand.  This is a pretty easy mechanism for interpreting commitments and being able to tease out serious, transformative commitments to what can be PR-related statements of intent.  

One early use of social media at State was the launch of the Democracy Video Challenge. In this partnership that launched 7 years ago the Department partnered with YouTube to use their platform to get people talking about what democracy meant to them. People were invited to submit three minute videos of their thoughts on Democracy. The platform enabled a worldwide response and we even got the dialogue going in non-democratic countries. The cost was significantly lower by using this technology and the target audience was more easily reached.

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