As humans, we’re always looking for patterns. Same thing goes for editors like myself. I’m always on the prowl for trends, especially when it comes to figuring out what is of most interest to NextBillion readers.
This month, our top three most-read articles examined how companies are succeeding in reaching out to consumers at the base of the pyramid, as well as a sharp critique of one of those models. Here are the April winners of the “NextBillies,” our monthly awards for the most read and most shared posts. Congratulations to all!
Bridging the Gap with Early Capital for BoP Models: An impact evaluation of VisionSpring in El Salvador by Carlued Leon (pictured left) was the most-read article in April. Leon is the global research manager at MANAUS Consulting, which provides evaluation and strategy services in the areas of corporate social responsibility and international development.
VisionSpring’s success in selling low-cost eyeglasses in India has been well documented here on NB and in multiple media and research accounts. Obviously, less analysis has been conducted on the venture’s foray into the Latin American market, specifically in El Salvador where VisionSpring set up shop a few years ago. In her research, Leon concludes the case of VisionSpring demonstrates the importance of strategic grants in bridging the financial gap experienced by business models in their early stages.
“By the end of 2011, the model had empowered 33 micro-entrepreneurs, created 35 new full-time jobs, served more than 35,000 BoP patients, and sold in excess of 23,000 eyeglasses. Revenues also increased by more than six-fold from 2010 to 2011, and the model is expected to reach profitability by the second quarter of this year (2013).”
Those results came just one year year after receiving a $200,000 non-reimbursable grant from IDB’s Opportunities for the Majority (OMJ) initiative. OMJ has developed a portfolio of non-reimbursable technical cooperation grants to support pre-commercial pilots that are not yet ready for conventional loans, but still have the potential to scale and replicate. (Full disclosure: OMJ is a NextBillion Content Partner).
Daniel Jensen at Global Envision, took on the buy-one give-one model in TOMS Shoes and Consumerism's 3 Biggest Sins, the second most-read article on NB. Among his criticisms of TOMS is that the company ignores the trade-off between profitability and social mission.
“Conscious consumer jargon is commonly used by profit-maximizing firms like Whole Foods. When these firms post record profits, investors begin expecting all social enterprises to yield similar returns. In reality, social enterprise is usually a high-risk, low-return affair, so if social investors start to expect a market return, they won’t fund it. In fact, that’s already happening.”
(Full disclosure: Global Envision is managed by Mercy Corps, a NextBillion Content Partner).
2013 could be the year when microinsurance crosses the 1 billion customer mark in Africa. Matt Mossman chronicled the uneven evolution of that market in the third most-read article of the month: Africa’s Microinsurance Maze: Early trial-and-error efforts could lead to coverage for 1 billion in 2013. Mossman charts how insurance vendors are struggling to reach customers through telecom networks, and how telecom networks are taking advantage of their market penetration by offering insurance.
"Mobile-phone companies have an incentive to allow insurance to be sold over their networks beyond taking a slice of the profits. Keeping customers is a tough trick in poor countries, as mobile phone users often buy prepaid airtime in small blocks and are typically willing to switch phone chips and use several networks and phone numbers at once, according to which one is offering the best deal when it is time to make a call or send a text."
Rounding out the top five most-read posts in April were:
Cases That Inspire Social Innovation By Hui Wen Chan
Reaching The Final 20: Investing in infrastructure to improve health care delivery By John Beale
April's most posts popular on Twitter
Stopping Micronutrient Deficiencies: GAIN’s Rebecca Spohrer on the potential of food fortification By Chandrima Chatterjee
The IT Revolution in Health Care: Jeffrey Sachs' keynote at the Global Health & Innovation Conference By James Militzer
Is Social Enterprise 'Social' Enough? : Reflections from the SankalpUnconvention Summit in Mumbai By Aarthi Rao
Most popular on Facebook
Remembering C.K. Prahalad : Through Action By Scott Anderson
Learning from the Pioneers: Marketing innovative devices for the BoP By Oliver Kayser and Lucie Klarsfeld
Honey Care Africa's Evolution : A video Q&A with CEO Madison Ayer on managing the challenges of beekeeping at scale By Ted London
Here’s that one post you might have missed this month that’s worth your time: NexThought Monday: Strategies for Doing Business in Emerging, Diverse Rural India by Perzen Patel. She interviews Pradeep Kashyap, the CEO and Founder of MART – one of India’s leading emerging markets consulting firms, about the opportunities and challenges of creating innovations for rural Indian markets.