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Sachet marketing, Asian style


Innovative micro-selling methods continue to reap benefits in parts of the world where purchasing power is modest. Three examples: phone ladies, a smart bus, and Smart Buddies.

Remember our Small is Sundara article? Or our piece on Mexican Banco Azteca selling small loans in retail stores? Well, with more of the world gaining in purchasing power, however modest it sometimes may be, innovative micro-selling methods continue to reap the benefits. From mini-sachets of Unilever shampoo to micro-loans from a big financial institution. Our sister-publication TRENDWATCHING.COM has dubbed this promising trend SACHET MARKETING (and will report on it in the January edition). Below are three very cool and insightful new business concepts, from Bangladesh, India, and The Philippines. GrameenPhone, Bangladesh’s leading cell phone operator, is offering a special low-priced package to so-called ‘phone ladies’ in small villages, where fixed telephone lines are non-existent. The phone ladies share their cell phones with other villagers at a few taka a call, raking in monthly earnings that could top USD 170: a serious income in a nation where the average annual per capita income is USD 368. Internet access over wireless phones is next. (Source: Reuters.) Meanwhile, DakNet, an initiative by US based First Mile Solutions, is combining WiFi and the local rural bus system in India to enable villagers to access their land records without having to travel for hours. DakNet is setting up kiosks with offline terminals in small villages, on which villagers can prepare their request.When a rural bus equipped with ‘store and forward’ technology drives by, the requests are transferred to the bus and stored there until the bus passes a landline-linked Wi-Fi hub. The bus, without stopping, dumps the requests and picks up return messages for each of the villages on its route. Despite a 48 hours latency and limited bandwidth, DakNet is making a big financial difference to villagers, saving them USD 3 in bus fare and a day’s lost wages riding a bus into the nearest government center to handle paperwork or get copies of land records. (Source: last but not least: 95% of all Filipino cell phone owners use pre-paid cards to ‘pay as you call’. However, with the average annual income hovering around USD 1,000, telcos found that offering regular USD 20 top-up cards didn’t appeal to cash-strapped customers. So telco ‘Smart’ started offering mini-top ups for as little as 300 pesos (approx 4.5 euro/ USD 3.5), but even that proved unattractive to many of its customers. The solution? The Smart Buddy System, developed by wireless carrier ‘Smart‘, which turns Smart customers into Smart Buddyactual sales people, allowing them to resell some of their unused credits, which not only eases the strain on their cash flow, but earns them money as well!More than 100,000 Smart Buddy participants now gladly buy USD 20 top-up cards, as they can resell credits in units as little as 30 pesos to Smart’s 11,900,000 other customers, by simply transferring bits of air time. For each 1,000 pesos sold, the ‘merchant’ receives a 150 pesos commission. For more information on the technology behind it, check out the Smart Buddy site. (Source:, NYT.)


If your customers are willing but cash strapped, think micro loans, think mini-sizes, think leasing, think bundling, think reselling! It will make you money, AND lay the foundation for brand awareness with future affluent customers.


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