I hopped in my cab at 8:30 am and headed toward meetings at Envirofit, the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, CogKnit, and Koshy’s. But unfortunately (or fortunately, as things tend to always work out), my cab driver and I miscommunicated, and he aimed toward a different institution that was not IIMB. I missed that meeting but made space to meet with MicroGraam. In general, lessons learned from a day in Bangalore:
- From Envirofit: 1) Tamil Nadu is a terrible market for cooking stoves because the previous two governments have promised LPG and other freebies. I felt my previously low confidence in cooking stoves sink progressively lower. 2) However, Tamil Nadu is a great market for solar. This was proven true through our Pollachi experiment. 3) For suppliers, if their own proprietary distribution channel to retailers fails to work, they can always go with business to business sales. 4) Traditional suppliers sell mature products, not concept products like cookstoves. 5) Financing retailers does make sense, but we need to get banks and MFIs onboard with us. Not too many finance shop owners yet.
- From Cogknit: 1) Contrary to popular belief, rural users don’t mind paying for new products as long as their perception of quality is high. 2) There might be potential for using cable operators as sellers.
- From Micrograam: 1) Microfinance institutions charge really high interest rates on loans (but Micrograam tries cutting these rates down). 2) To do microsavings, as we had explored with someone from Harvard, we would need bank backing to be legal. Some rural banks have individuals in the village who open bank accounts an deposit money. This could be another sales agent.
- From Koshy’s (not a meeting with Koshy’s, but a meeting at Koshy’s): 1) People oftentimes need pushing to get things done. 2) An organization of any repute requires a team, not just a leader.