Despite being the dominant retail channel in Mombasa County, micro retail remains underserved by suppliers in terms of products, services and information. Given the growing population – particularly in the South and West parts of the County – the demand for fast-moving-consumer-goods (FMCGs) is set to continually rise for in urban areas in Mombasa. Kuza has been working closely with SMEs in the FMCG sub-sector – manufacturers, importers and suppliers – to implement new business models that enable them to serve this growing market and create employment opportunities for young people. Hundreds of young people in Mombasa have been either self-employed or employed as sales agents and/or micro-distributors serving the growing micro-retail sub-sector through the Kuza-supported micro-distribution model. The sector is already a substantial source of employment in Mombasa but approximately 5,000 more jobs can still be created within the next three years.
The source from within: strengthening capability of partners through in-house talent
Over the last 12 months, Kuza has been strengthening the capability of its supplier partners to take the micro-distribution (MD) model to scale. Dubbed, the ‘in-house MD model’ and aimed at local suppliers and regional distributors, Kuza works with firms to enhance their route-to-market by serving micro-retailers through a network of youth micro-distributors, who in turn manage a group of youth sales agents. It requires the firm to recruit or appoint a resource from within the organisation – a special project supervisor (“SPS”) – whose responsibility is to recruit, train, and manage all the micro-distributors attached to the company. Depending on the existing capacity of the firm, support has ranged from Kuza taking a very hands-on role for a predefined period of time, advising on strategic decision-making in regard to sales, seeding new business ideas, and/or supporting in an advisory capacity as a mentor or coach to the appointed SPS.
How do organisations receive and implement ideas?
We have learned several lessons in the course of this work related to how organisations receive and implement new ideas. These lessons have been around how information is shared, activities prioritised and ownership and commitment built.
We advised that companies should recruit the SPS from within their sales teams to address this. Though this served to ease the learning curve, the role still demanded a more integrated approach. It became clear to us that a more critical lesson was to ensure that the SPS role was understood by all levels of the organisation. Though Kuza was able to secure the buy-in and ownership of the immediate sales supervisors, more concerted efforts needed to have been made concurrently at other levels of the organisation, and information flows understood and leveraged for complete organisational ownership. In this way, the SPS could count on the support of the entire team, and ideally receive the required support from the management and sales teams.
This ownership also opened up the door to further iterations of the model by distributors. With full knowledge of how the model worked, they found ways to adapt it to suit their internal capacity and organizational targets. For example, one partner decided to take on the role of a micro-distributor and have the SPS work directly with sales agents to serve the micro-retailers within their area. Though there are limitations to the scalability of the model should the distributor choose to expand beyond Mvita sub-County, the ownership suggests greater sustainability post-Kuza support, greater access to FMCG products for young sales agents, and hence greater incomes.
By James Kithi and Cindy Lithimbi-Ondego