Opening up the economy, at home and at school

In a nutshell

Developing the rural economy of Pakistan quickly yet sustainably.

What’s the issue?

Previous attempts to introduce branded consumer goods to rural Pakistan have benefitted neither FMCG companies nor villagers in the long term.

What’s the story?

In rural Pakistan, not all villages are created equal. 7,000 of the 48,000 villages contain half the rural population and account for 80 percent of rural GDP. These are known as impact villages. Unilever Pakistan’s rural channel team is planning to help the economies of each one of them grow in the next five years through a project called Mera Sona Gaon. This translates as Perfect Village.

The project has four, core elements:

  • School activations – teaching children about nutrition and hygiene.
  • In-home gatherings – brand ambassadors educate groups of up 80 women and children at a time about the benefits of using skin and beauty care, home care and food products. These domestic experiential marketing/product sampling sessions include opportunities to buy.
  • Door-to-door sales – some women, culturally, are reluctant to attend in-home gatherings, so ambassadors visit women’s homes individually to introduce and sell products, often in smaller Low Unit Packs or sachets. While they cover products in less depth than at in-home gatherings, the contact can be more personal, and again includes the chance to buy.
  • Wall paintings – city-style billboards are not present or appropriate in villages, so Unilever paints school and village walls in brand colours and with key visuals to ensure sustained visibility between visits. Wall paintings are liked and add to the beauty of the villages.

What are the outcomes and impact?

In Perfect Village’s first year, 2015, Unilever’s ambassadors touched 832 villages, once each quarter, and impressively more than doubling to 2,160 villages in 2016. There are 29 teams, each 14 strong, who typically have a further six dependents in their family. So, ambassador recruitment alone has already provided sustainable incomes to more than 3,000 people. Real people like Umaida.

The ambassadors have reached approaching 2MM children in 5,300 schools. In-home gatherings have reached a million rural consumers, while door-to-door sales have touched a further 3.5MM. For both in-home and door-to-door, 60-70 percent of consumers go on to buy and start building loyalty to the products they see and try, often for the first time. 9,100 walls have been painted, half in schools, half in villages.

Across the country, the Perfect Village-concept is a proven sustainable business model as sales in Perfect Villages are growing more than twice as fast as Unilever Pakistan.
Laraib Nawaz, Channel Manager for Rural in Pakistan, says: “It’s inspiring to see the relevance and importance of our products to the rural community. And it’s inspiring to see how a targeted, culturally-sensitive approach can deliver both accelerated and sustainable growth.”

What are the future plans?

The aim is to reach a further 1,500 villages in 2017 in addition to the 2,000 already in the project, taking it already to half the long-term target of reaching 7,000 impact villages. The number of teams will grow to almost 50. Economies of scale will build efficiencies and profitability into the programme, though it will always be delivered in person by ambassadors with local knowledge, experience and profile.

In Summary

Siddique Akbar, Principal of Afaq School & College in Kot Samaba, says: “I’m grateful for the team who came to our school. The activity on hygiene was so useful. It created awareness on the importance and benefits of cleanliness and children have started practicing it already.”

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