Podcast | The Low-How Ep1

What do solar lights, mobile money and pit latrines have in common?

October 2022

Welcome to The Low-How, from Bopinc. Where we share our know-how about low-income markets. 

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In this episode: what do solar lights, digital payments and pit latrines have in common?

Co-hosts Beryl Oyier and Patrick Guyer speak to Emile Schmitz, Managing Director of Bopinc, to get the low-down on how and where Bopinc is contributing to positive changes in the lives of low-income consumers and entrepreneurs in countries like Bangladesh, Kenya and Nigeria. And we’ll get an audio snapshot of what’s coming up in the next few episodes of the Low-How. 

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About the podcast

The Low-How is a new series of podcasts, launched by Bopinc in October 2022. Each episode the Bopinc team will share our know-how about low-income markets. By harnessing the power of entrepreneurship across the value chain, we aim to improve the quality of life for consumers and entrepreneurs at the base of the economic pyramid.


Akoji John: You are listening to the Low-How, how from Bopinc, where we share our knowhow about low income markets,

Bopinc works with entrepreneurs and companies to make the best products and services available where the matter the most.

Beryl Oyier: We are all about using the power of entrepreneurship to fulfill aspirations and meet the needs of people at the best of the economic pyramid.

Bushra Sumaiya: Come along with us as we seek out the right innovations, right for low income markets.

Beryl Oyier: Hi, I am Beryl Oyier, East Africa, Managing Director for Bopinc .

Patrick Guyer: And I'm Patrick Guyer impact measurement and insights lead for Bopinc.

Beryl Oyier: And we are your cohosts for this introductory episode of the Low-How.

Patrick Guyer: Welcome Beryl how are you doing today?

Beryl Oyier: I'm doing great. Patrick, how are you? Very well. Thanks.

Patrick Guyer: Always great to be chatting with you. Beryl. What is the series all about?

Beryl Oyier: We are taking you along with us as we explore how Bopinc and our partners are using the power of entrepreneurshipto fulfill aspirations and meet the needs of the people at the best of the economic pyramid.

Patrick Guyer: Okay. So it sounds like listeners can expect to get the low down on some exciting things that are happening in low income markets in this series. What else are we going to hear about?

Beryl Oyier: We are also going to share Bopinc's know-how on how to find the right innovations for low income consumers and low income markets. We'll also talk about the impacts of our work and what lessons we are learning from it.

Patrick Guyer: That sounds great. So what are we gonna be talking about in this episode today?

Beryl Oyier: Today we start with a question. What do solar lights, digital payments and pit latrines have in common?

Patrick Guyer: And to get the low- down on this, we're very happy to welcome Emile Schmitz, Managing Director of Bopinc, to the podcast. Emile, welcome.

Emile Schmitz: Thanks for having me, Patrick.

Beryl Oyier: So Emile back to my question.

Emile Schmitz: Great question Beryl. Well, these are all things that we've worked on at Bopinc over the past few years. We focus on low income markets and serving low income consumers often by working with low income entrepreneurs. And we wanna bring our expertise to support those entrepreneurs, to develop the right products and services, but then also support them to make sure they end up in the hands of those people at the base of the pyramid.

And so we've supported more than a thousand companies over the past 11 years. And the products that we focus on can range from anything from solar lights, to water filters, to digital financial products. Nutritious foods or other FMCG [LOUD BUZZER] What was that?

Patrick Guyer: So, Emile, that was the jargon alarm, which goes off whenever we get a little too carried away with technical jargon that some of our listeners might not be familiar with. So let's rewind and explain what FMCG actually means. And just so you know, there may be a punishment later on as well, uh, especially for repeat offenders.

Emile Schmitz: Alright, that's good to understand. Yeah. Let's, let's try to remove all that jargon. It's not very useful. I agree. So I talked about FMCG, which is actually an acronym for "fast moving consumer goods".

So those are products that people use on a daily basis. So anything like hygiene products, soap. Detergents, but also food products that people consume every day. And it's an important part of the spend of low income consumers.

Beryl Oyier: Okay. You mentioned Bopinc's focus on low income consumers and entrepreneurs in low income markets. Why this focus?

Emile Schmitz: Well, low income markets or, as we call them the base of the pyramid, that's in our name. And it's a critical focus for us cuz currently if we look at a high-level definition, there are more than 4 billion people on this planet that live on less than $8 a day. The $8 a day, however, is kind of an ambiguous threshold.

And I think what's important for us at Bopinc, is that we're focusing on those low income consumers that face a poverty penalty. And what I mean with that is that they have no proper access to affordable basic products or services. So, because they're poor and because they often live in rural areas, they pay a higher amount for basic services, like energy, like nutritious foods, like hygiene products. And we wanna change that. And we wanna change that by working with entrepreneurs in these markets.

Patrick Guyer: Thanks for that explanation Emile. So you actually just touched on some of the examples that we'll be revisiting in the next episodes of the Low-How. Now we want to give you listeners a sense of what it sounds like to be there with some of the companies and some of the entrepreneurs that we work with.

So in our next episode, we'll learn about the business of marketing and distributing solar home systems in Ethiopia and other countries across Africa.

Beryl Oyier: And then we'll move to Bangladesh where we will tag along with a pioneering pit latrine emptying service, serving low income, urban residents.

Patrick Guyer: So Emile, I'd like to ask you, what are you personally looking forward to hearing in upcoming episodes of this podcast?

Emile Schmitz: Well, I'm mostly excited to hear more about the programs that we're running. For example, in Ethiopia, it deals with last mile female entrepreneur networks, and we've worked so much across those type of models. It's a huge inspiration for me. We've seen women selling anything from lights to financial services to FMCG, uh, I mean, hygiene products.

Patrick Guyer: Good recovery!

Emile Schmitz: Um, and it's just always inspiring to me to speak to these entrepreneurs and hear their experiences. And hopefully also hear about how some of our work has actually changed their life for the better.

Beryl Oyier: Thanks, Emile. Uh, Bopinc recently celebrated 10 years of operations. What do you feel are some key achievements of this decade of work?

Emile Schmitz: Yes. It was quite a big milestone 10 years. And it's always amazing. If you then look over your shoulder and look where you're actually coming from, just makes me very proud to see how we've grown the organization and how we've especially grown our teams in the markets where we run our programs across Africa and Asia.

And I'm specifically proud seeing where we're currently at in terms of our journey towards reaching 5 million low income consumers by 2024, and 200,000 low income entrepreneurs. And it's exciting that to see that we're actually well on track to reaching that. And of course, that's just a big number, but behind that number are so many different programs and efforts that the team have put their focus on. And so I'm very excited to see what the next 10 years will bring for Bopinc.

Patrick Guyer: And, and at this moment of reflection, Emile, I wonder if you have any reflections yourself on what kinds of things Bopinc might need to work on further or do differently, uh, to achieve some of those goals that we've set for ourselves?

Emile Schmitz: Oh, absolutely. There's plenty that we still need to deal with or need to address, but I'll just highlight three of them here. The first one, which I feel is very important is bridging the digital divide. I think digital innovation offers so much potential for the work that we do, but we have to make sure that we leave no one behind because otherwise the gap will only widen. The second component, which I think is crucial is to ensure gender equity and all our programs. And also in the impact that we're delivering with our partners. And the last one I wanna highlight is that we have to move to more circular business models.

Akoji John: You are listening to the low how. From Bopinc.

Patrick Guyer: So Beryl, I'm really excited to kick this off!

Beryl Oyier: Same here. Patrick, what are you looking forward to in the next episode?

Patrick Guyer: Well, in addition to the things that Emile mentioned, I'm also really curious to hear about the business models that entrepreneurs are using to make these kinds of innovations available at prices that low income consumers can afford. Uh, what about you Beryl?

Beryl Oyier: Same line of thought, Patrick, I'm also curious to hear about how these enterprises are achieving impact and at the same time ensuring sustainability and scale at the base of the pyramid.

Patrick Guyer: Absolutely, and Beryl what's coming up in our next episode?

Beryl Oyier: Next time we are talking about light, uh, solar powered light, to be exact, and working with entrepreneurs to market and distribute solar lighting in Africa.

Patrick Guyer: Looking forward to that! Now let's take this moment to thank Emile Schmitz and also Auke Douma and Asif Mahmood Abbas for their contributions to this episode. And thanks also to you Beryl!

Beryl Oyier: Thanks, Patrick. Talk to you later.

Patrick Guyer: If you'd like to earn more about what we talked about on the podcast today, check out the links in the episode notes and don't miss the next episode of the Low-How. Thanks for listening!

Akoji John: Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Low-How. If you like what you heard, leave us a comment and give us a review. Wherever you get your podcast.

Bushra Sumaiya: The Low-How is brought to you by Bopinc. Learn more about us by visiting Bopinc.org and be sure to check out extra info and links about what you heard today in the episode notes.

Thanks for listening!

Patrick Guyer: Now, Emile, since you set off the jargon alarm with FMCG and, and quite frankly, uh, base of the pyramid and last mile, we're a little borderline there too. There is a penalty. Uh, we would like you to make up an entire sentence of only buzzwords and jargon. Go!

Emile Schmitz: We have to build the capacity of multiple stakeholders to deliver sustained impact, according to our theory of change.

Patrick Guyer: That was a pretty good one. What'd you think Beryl?

Beryl Oyier: Yeah, that was a good try.