Bundling Services for Greater Impact

March 5, 2015

Camilla Nestor,
Senior Vice President, Global Solutions,
Grameen Foundation

At last year’s Mobile World Congress, “usability” and “user-centered design” were the big buzz words. Mobile operators, providers and others in the Mobile for Development sessions acknowledged the importance of investing in R&D to create relevant products and services for people at the base of the pyramid.

This year, another area is ripe for attention: providing bundled services to achieve greater impact. We believe that bundling financial services with practical information on good farming practices, both enabled through the now nearly ubiquitous mobile phone, will go further in reducing farmer poverty and increasing yields than advancing either solution alone.

Take farmers, for example. A recent GSMA mFarmer Initiative review of mobile agriculture extension services found farmers ranked sourcing capital as their #1 need. Yet, overstretched extension agents typically aren’t able to facilitate the connections to credit, savings and insurance services that smallholder farmers need.

Financial service providers shy away from agriculture because of the perceived risks, while farmers often distrust formal financial institutions and have limited experience using their products. Using the data collected through mobile-enabled agricultural extension networks, we are solving problems for the financial services provider by securing them new customers and giving them greater real-time visibility into agricultural businesses, enabling them to better manage risk. And these trusted agricultural extension networks can create opportunities for farmers by connecting them to financing and providing information that can improve their crop yields.

All of this becomes possible by using the mobile phone as a two-way channel to deliver financial services and information to smallholder farmers.

Rural farmers face as many challenges as corporate CEOs—with just a fraction of the money and information. Grameen Foundation’s “big bet” is integrating these services will help farmers build stronger businesses and communities and give them greater control of their lives.

 

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