Over the past few months, GCS has been refining its Rafiki model, where we train GCS village agents to become technology access points in the village. These past two weeks, GCS had the privilege of welcoming Maria Luz, Giambartolomei, Andean Director of Community Enterprise Solutions, to Tanzania.
She came here to share her experiences in working with the MicroConsignment Model in Ecuador. While she was here, we did quite a few village visits, and for us, it was a fascinating experience, as rather than just selling solar lanterns, we experimented with reading glasses, which they considered their biggest high impact product where the need was big, the price affordable, and adoption rate high.
After all, when you toss on a paper of reading glasses, suddenly, a fuzzy world comes into focus. Her visit was packed with many field days and a bold pilot to understand how reading glasses could drastically change the market. Our biggest takeaways from Maria were:
- Entrepreneurs are best supported when we can help them with their campaigns and help link them to existing markets, such as savings groups, hospitals, teachers, and other active groups.
- Entrepreneurs should be viewed more as community advisors rather than salesmen. When our entrepreneurs gave free eye exams, they seemed to be immediately perceived as someone special, someone who could be trusted within the community because they were offering a service that is so important to the lives of their clients.
- Reading eyeglasses are a product that people can easily pay for. With all our pricing below $10 for every pair of eyeglasses, we were amazed that we could sell dozen reading eyeglasses in a a matter of hours (the only reason it took hours was because every eye exam to fit our customers required 5-10 minutes, and we had 40 people come for our first eye exam campaign.
We look forward to seeing how we will be able to integrate this in our programs, but for sure, we are going to take it slowly as the support needed for such a model is much more intensive than we thought! Whether we start selling reading eyeglasses, we are excited by what’s ahead.
Jodie | Arusha, Tanzania