We asked Benjamin van der Hilst, business developer at BoP Innovation Center, to explain the specifics of the IB Accelerator Toolkit. Benjamin has developed the toolkit in close cooperation with the SEED Initiative and STDBY.
SEED brought in business development tools that were initially developed for environmentally sustainable enterprises and STBY contributed their expertise in innovative business development tool development.
Which people have been trained in the use of the toolkit and what have been their first reactions to the toolkit?
“We recently trained the inclusive business coordinators from our local support offices in Mozambique, Uganda and Vietnam as well as three market-based business development services providers from Mozambique. They were extremely enthusiastic about the toolkit. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We must await the feedback after they have tested the toolkit in their respective markets. Besides, it is only fair to say that these local business developers are highly qualified and experienced professionals.
The added value of the IBA toolkit is the strong focus on inclusiveness and the peculiarities of BoP markets. This requires a number of specific skills and tools adapted to these markets. And this is what we offer. In addition, the local IB Accelerator offices and business development advisors were also happy with the way the IB Accelerator toolkit is structured, including the manuals for the advisors that will work with it.”
What are the main differences between generic business development tools and the IB Accelerator business development tools?
“In fact, the majority of tools are based on already existing tools such as the business model canvass. Nevertheless, there are three significant unique characteristics of the IB Accelerator Toolkit that I would like to stipulate. First of all the IB Accelerator Toolkit provides a coherent set of tools guiding the inclusive business development process from A to Z and addresses the specifics of the markets in which the IB Accelerator is working.
Secondly, the focus on inclusiveness sets the IB Accelerator toolkit apart. Establishing businesses in Base of the Pyramid markets is a somewhat different ballgame. For example, market research in these markets demands sensing tools: market research technologies allowing entrepreneurs to gain a better understanding of the market from the customers’ point of view rather from the company’s point of view. Entrepreneurs also need tools to understand and plan the impact of their business in local markets.
Thirdly, there are tools to assess which kind of partnerships could help the business to be successful. Partnering with local communities, knowing who the decision makers are, partnering with local governments to address the regulatory framework and partnering with NGOs that can help broaden the reach. In most business cases partners are extremely important and theIB Accelerator toolkit helps to make an appropriate assessment. Last but not least, risk assessment in Base of the Pyramid markets requires specific knowledge and skills.”
How did you find out about the requirements of the local business development support suppliers?
“The IB Accelerator team executes thematic scoping studies, for example related to marketing and distribution. Based on the outcome of various case studies in Asia and Africa, we were able to assess the requirements and decided which tools would add to the already available knowledge, skills and business development services.
Depending on the results of the piloting phase some of the tools will be tweaked and then we will start training the local offices with theIB Accelerator Toolkit version 1.0. The toolkit as such will never be completely finished as the market is developing and new innovations will be launched. We foresee annual iterations and we already know that the next iteration will include more in-depth tools for financial analysis.”
Which results make you proud?
“The logic and structure of the IB Accelerator Toolkit provide the local business developers with tools they can apply in their daily work. For them it will be easier to explain to their local clients why they follow a certain process to make sound business plans. The strong branding of the toolkit is an additional asset because it helps to get good exposure and expresses quality.
The extremely good cooperation with STBY and the SEED Initiative as well as with SCOPEinsight in the development of the IBA Toolkit also makes me proud. None of us re-invented the wheel. We have been able to build upon the knowledge, skills and tools that each of us brought to the table to develop the best possible tools. It is not always easy to build partnerships that result in such great synergies. We managed to do so. It is just like the IBA itself: this is not about us. It is about developing the best possible environment for inclusive business to bloom. It is about our ultimate goal of doing the right things to develop business with and for the poor to build stronger and resilient economies.”