The i-Shakti project will enable saleswomen in rural India to access Hindustan Lever product prices and place orders online, from what are now distinctively offline villages and regions
With 1.3 billion eager consumers, China steals most of the emerging markets limelight these days. However, India, China’s mighty neighbor, with 1 billion plus inhabitants, is not exactly lacking in smart, new business ideas catering to aspiring consumers and entrepreneurs either. Case in point: an online direct selling portal for women who represent Hindustan Lever consumer goods in rural villages (source: FT).
The initiative, called i-Shakti, which is the online component to the now three year old ‘Shakti’ project (training women across the country in micro-business skills), is set up by Unilever and Hewlett Packard, and will eventually enable saleswomen to access Hindustan Lever product prices and place orders online, from what are now distinctively offline villages and regions.
Hindustan Lever has a presence in 100,000 of the 638,000 Indian villages, and gets 50% of its turnover from the rural markets. The products sold often come in small quantities, including 1 rupee (2 US cents) sachets of shampoo.
Other multinational companies are joining the fray: Philips Electronics (light bulbs), vehicle maker TVS, UK based pressure cooker manufacturer Prestige and Japan’s Nippo (dry cell batteries) are all working on expanding their presence in rural India.
As highlighted by our earlier ‘Small is sundara’
and ‘Small loans, big ambitions’
articles, selling to emerging consumers requires creativity and sometimes deep pockets, but the pay-off could be enormous. If you’re working for a true multinational, the Shakti set-up is one to watch!