Going the extra mile
Durable, innovative technologies such as clean cookstoves, solar lanterns and other life-changing products deliver their promised benefits only if they are properly delivered, adopted and serviced over time. However, many of these technologies never make it into the hands of people who need them most. In rural India, their accessibility is poor, uptake limited and after-sales support virtually non-existent.
Essmart works with small local retail stores in rural southern India to help them stock, sell and service life-improving products in their communities. Based on feedback about local wants and needs, it first sources products ranging from fuel-efficient cookstoves and time-saving pressure cookers to solar lanterns and rechargeable torch lights to include in its catalogue. Essmart's sales executives then build relationships with shopkeepers, showing them how to promote the products, delivering shipments to them on a per order basis and facilitating returns and replacements. It also offers trusted shopkeepers flexible payment terms for orders, which enables these shops to provide informal financing to their end customers.
Essmart operates through a hub-and-spoke model, with offices and stocking points in towns from which rural areas can be reached by motorbike. These towns are typically the most remote locations to which courier companies will bring deliveries, so Essmart handles last-mile distribution. The enterprise manages the bidirectional movement of durable products and money collection with a proprietary offline mobile application and back-end logistics software.
Essmart’s primary revenue stream is the wholesale mark-up on the products it sells to local shops. The company generates secondary revenue streams by leveraging its distribution network for market testing and research. This helps new technology designers obtain much-needed feedback on design, pricing, branding, and more, ensuring that new life-improving products are built with end users’ needs and wants in mind.
IMPACT ACHIEVED SO FAR?
As of March 2018, Essmart has sold over 40 000 life-improving products through 1 200 local retail shops, impacting about 160 000 people. It partners with over 20 product designers and manufacturers, employs 36 people and offers nearly 200 unique items in its catalogue.
To date, Essmart products have increased users’ productivity by 31.2 million hours, saved users 67.5 million rupees in costs, and eliminated 9.6 million kilograms of CO2 emissions as well as 1.1 million litres of kerosene consumption.