Project Everest

Experiment Results

[Experimental Results]: Social Consulting Malawi - Community Meeting Distribution - July 2018

Refer to experiment design post:
As mentioned in a previous post, the lack of infrastructure in rural regions in Malawi is a significant barricade in reaching the communities that are in need of the product we provide. Door-to-door sales were costly and inefficient. We found that in 3 hours, we would only reach around 10 houses, all of which would need at least a second visit to secure a sale. It was time-consuming, human resource heavy and expensive to pay field guides every time we went out (with few results). An aim this month, by means of experiment, was to validate community meetings as an effective distribution channel to use it as a means of securing group sales.


The standard operating procedure (SOP) we developed for the meetings was briefly as shown:
-       Communicate with village chiefs beforehand through Watson to arrange meeting place, meeting time and security criteria required of the community members to bring to the meeting.
-       Security criteria:

  • National ID
  • Phone Number
  • Airtel Money/TNM Mpamba account
  • Guarantor with the same criteria mentioned above.
  • 1200 MWK on their account to make first payment immediately.

-       During the meeting we would go through introductions and formalities, run through    the sales pitch, run through the finance pitch and complete sales.
-       Sales would be completed by typing their details into a CRM, explaining and signing contracts of micro-finance scheme, completing first payment via Airtel Money/TNM Mpamba and writing a receipt of purchase that came with their product.


Week 2: The community meetings for Monday and Tuesday in the region of Nancholi were both cancelled last minute due to funerals in the villages. By the end of Tuesday, we were beginning to questions whether community meetings were the most reliable means of distribution.

Wednesday 11/07/18

-       Mkoka Village, around 10 minutes’ walk from NAYO

-       Around 30 community members, village chief, Annie (field guide), parts of Energy Team and Social Consulting Team present.

-       10 sales were made – 7 on the new payment plan and 3 upfront.

-       There was confusion due to lack of effective communication with village chiefs beforehand. Community members assumed they could make first payment with cash. We were only accepting Airtel Money or Mpamba, to ensure they were set up with the payment plan for the future. Minor frustrations arose due to this.

-       To compromise we let the eager community members fill out all the necessary security criteria and sign the contracts and left their products with the chief until they paid their first payment.

-       NB – when the customers went and did this, five of them paid through an Airtel/TNM agent’s account. This means we couldn’t track who the payments were coming from.

-       We explained at the end to the chief that he had to relay to the villagers that they were to pay through their own Airtel Money/TNM Mpamba account, so that we could track the payments efficiently.

-       The first meeting was both a success (we certainly didn’t expect to sell that many products) and a learning curve (we had a much better idea on how to go about future meetings).

Thursday 12/07/18

-       Chilunduka Village, much farther out from NAYO. No electricity connection.

-       Around 25 community members, village chief, Annie (field guide), parts of Energy Team and Social Consulting Team present.

-       We established the villagers were paying around 2100 MWK on candles and charging stations per week.

-       They were also walking 1.5 hours to Nancholi markets every day to charge their phones.

-       Made 7 sales – 6 upfront and 1 payment plan. An incredibly surprising amount of upfront sales. The same problem arose with this village as the last one. Very few had money on their Airtel Money or Mpamba account.

-       We took the names and numbers of the people interested and arranged a meeting for Wednesday the next week.

Monday 16/07/18

-       Mlanga Village. Rescheduled meeting from Monday that was cancelled due to funeral.

-       Around 15 community members, village chief, Annie (field guide), parts of Energy Team and Social Consulting Team present.

-       Established that they were spending on average 1400 MWK per week on candles and charging.

-       Less successful meeting. None of the community members had Airtel or Mpamba credit.

-       Made 1 upfront sale.

-        Arrangements made for us to return to the village on Friday 20/07/18 to give time for those who did not meet requirements to

  • Set up telecom accounts
  • Top up account balance

Wednesday 18/07/18

-       Chilunduka, second planned meeting.

-       Around 15 community members, village chief, Annie (field guide), parts of Energy Team and Social Consulting Team present.

-       As this was a revisit organised from a previous meeting we expected to just process the sales and leave.

-       Made 12 sales – 8 upfront and 4 on payment plan.

-       We were surprised that a village so rural would have so many upfront sales – 14 in total.

-       All community members had either all security criteria or cash ready to go. Quick process.

-       At the end the village chief said that it had been communicated to her through Watson that she would receive a free product. Mismanaged expectations through mismanaged communication.


So far, the team has made 30 sales from the 4 community meetings we’ve held, bringing our amount of sales this month up to 55 in total. We’ve also learned a huge deal about how to conduct meetings, and a full Community Meeting SOP is being created for future use; whether by teams in the summer or individual agents.

What we definitely need to do is brainstorm ideas for effective communication prior to the community meeting itself. Right now the most effective path of sales is the follow up meeting organised to give people a chance to gather the necessary criteria. We want to cut this down to the same effectiveness within a single meeting.

The questions we are proposing for future experiments are as shown:

  • How do we better our communication with chiefs so that we and the community members are better prepared for the meeting itself?
  • How do we know how many units to bring?
  • How do we know who wants to pay upfront/payment plan?
  • How can the chiefs become more reliable? Do we need to provide training? Do we need to perform vetting on the chiefs before we work with them to ensure repayment security? What would that look like?
  • Do we need to test with less products per chief before we can entrust him with more? Build up a sort of credit rating?
  • Do we need to work with already existing reliable sources i.e the leader of the village bank, who has systems in place to ensure people repay their loans?

From the incredible amount of interest and purchases shown at community meetings so far, the team is well on its way of validating this method as an effective distribution channel. The next step is to monitor the repayments over the next 6 months, and assess whether future education schemes on loans and Airtel/Mpamba repayments are necessary in the future.


edited on 13th September 2018, 05:09 by Justin Hakeem

Wade Tink Jul 27, 2018

This is gold! Can you publish the SOP on how you are conducting the village meetings?

Would you say that this learning has been validated successfully. Do you think there is enough statistical significance from the completion of these experiments?

What is your next move from here?

Given the 30 sales; when looking at this as an effective channel really analyse the metrics. As a start point to think about:
- how many households that fit the customer segment in the village?
- how many ‘households’ turned up to the community meeting?
- how many of those ‘households’ converted to a sale?
- Was there any other form of conclusion other than sale or no sale? (Perhaps opportunity to follow-up given lack of security info?)
This will lay out your funnel and your conversions. Given inputs on channel costings you can start to really analyse whether this is a viable channel which is why you conducted this experiment. The deep analysis of these findings would effectively update the existing channel posts for Malawi Energy.

Your learning about information required to be communicated to intended beneficiaries before-hand would come under this channel as a costing as well. Looking forward to seeing how you validate the methods around that through experimentation.

Is there a financial benefit to the chiefs in this channel? If so, please outlay that as part of channel costings as well.

I’d argue that your comment “The next step is to monitor the repayments over the next 6 months, and assess whether future education schemes on loans and Airtel/Mpamba repayments are necessary in the future.” Is actually a learning that would come under the realm of the SoCon team in Malawi given your focus is on the energy solution.

This experimentation has certainly been worthwhile- well done.

Love the photo to, it reminds me of Glengarry Glen Ross...

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Wade Tink Jul 27, 2018

Status label added: Experiment Results

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