One To Watch portfolio company Gham Power has been working towards uplifting rural smallholder farmers by helping them adopt modern farming practices and shift to commercial farming via tailored agri-advisory and reliable solar irrigation. Furthermore, Gham Power has also been working alongside microfinance partners in providing affordable financing solutions to the farmers.
All efforts towards improving the livelihood of farmers were heavily disrupted with the COVID-related lockdowns. The microfinance partners, who were crucial to the social mobilization efforts, were busy addressing their backlogs and spending time on repayment collections. On the other hand, the farmers had also been struggling with unsold produce and limited access to essential agri inputs, and therefore, were reluctant to make new purchases or investments.
We realized that in order to get the ball rolling again, we needed to reinvent and reevaluate our approach says Anjal Niraula, CEO of Gham Power Nepal. Embracing a design thinking mindset, we began working on identifying and understanding the problem of our partners and our end users, he adds. They conducted preliminary research, created questionnaires that would provide clear and quantitative answers, selected regions that would act as a sample of their partner population, and visited the field to decipher the ground-level reality.
This exercise gave Gham Power a wider view of the situation. Following this, they created a map of all the actors in their value chain, a list of problems each actor would face, and brainstormed possible solutions for each problem. The solutions were then prioritized in terms of their feasibility. Then, a tentative timeline for a month was created and responsibilities were delegated to each team member. The output of this exercise was quite remarkable. Their existing marketing materials were refined so that the farmers would be able to understand the value provided by the service clearly. An easy narration was put together which would aid the partners in communicating about their service to the farmers in less than five minutes. They also redesigned their lead collecting application with the aim to make it as simple and fast as possible, thus, reducing the time spent by the partners on it.
The results obtained in the sample test regions so far has been extremely promising. Gham Power have always been trying to work digitally and had developed an application that enabled the MFI partners to share leads. However, their previous lead collection form had 27 fields that needed to be filled in the best-case scenario. In the new application, they brought it down to 2 fields in the best case and 4 fields in the worst-case scenario. This drastically reduced the average lead collection time from 6 minutes 40 seconds to 20 seconds.
Not just the duration of the lead collection, but the number of leads also went up. By utilizing the refined marketing materials, the average lead number went from 13 leads a region per month to 50 leads a region per month!