Startup Sunday || Season 3 Episode 20 || (Frontier Markets – The Social Entrepreneurship)

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Entrepreneurship is a journey which begins with a vision and keeps the person going miles and miles of success. But it gives a delight when you can create an impact on society by your start-up. Many social entrepreneurship are such examples where the vision is not just doing business but to impact the lives of many.

This Sunday we are presenting the story of one such Start-up that has changed the standard of living of many in the rural household- Frontier Markets

Frontier Markets is a rural marketing, sales, and services distribution company which provides access to affordable and quality consumer durables to the low-income section of society.

The Story

Founder

Founded in 2011, Frontier Markets is a last-mile distribution company with a mission to create ‘Saral Jeevan’ or an ‘Easy Life’ for rural consumers by providing them with access to quality clean energy solutions through their network of digitized rural entrepreneurs, with women at the centre of the value chain. Frontier Markets’ founder & CEO, Ajaita Shah, has 12 years experience in microfinance and clean energy distribution. She has been a Clinton Service Corp, Echoing Green, and Cordes Fellow and has been bestowed many awards including Forbes, Business Week, CNBC, and Microfinance’s 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneur and Women Entrepreneur of the Year. Ajaita was brought up in an Indian community in New York City, studied international relations and worked in various areas of government, research, and mediation. She moved to India after college to work in microfinance achieving grand outcomes in health care, energy, social performance management, and other sector innovations. She never knew that she wanted to be an entrepreneur, but, while working in India, she started realizing that she had entrepreneurial mindsets, skills, and mentalities.

India seemed to be a clear place where Ajaita saw the need for solar energy solutions. Her passion to make a difference, to understand people, to connect with their lives, and try to appreciate the ways to address challenges, gave birth to Frontier Markets with a vision to create “Saral Jeevan” or “easy life” for rural people by providing them the access to products they both want and need with ease.

What makes it different

Frontier Markets is India’s first online, offline, rural distribution company that uses a customer-centric approach to drive market opportunities in India. It has an integrated model with rural households which co-create products that impact them the most. Frontier Markets has built a verified and scalable model with a network of around 3,000 entrepreneurs.

Different

Approach

The company is functioning under two basic approaches:

  1. Solar Saheli
  2. Retailer/E-Mitra

Solar Saheli: Frontier Markets has built a proven and scalable model with a network of 1000 women entrepreneurs (Solar Sahelis) that are trained to access technology, marketing, and technical repair, to provide innovative solar solutions to sell to rural households.

Approach

Retailer/E-Mitra: Frontier Markets has adopted an exclusive strategy to create captive branded retailers and distributors across villages. The company works primarily with four types of Distributors:

  1. Agriculture (Seed, Pesticide, Poultry)
  2. Telecom (Mobile Phones, Cash Points)
  3. Appliances (Consumer Durables, Batteries, Home Appliances)
  4. E-Mitra/VLE (E-Governance Initiative)

Retailer

Every Distributor has a network of 100-200 Retail Shops that collect products from the distributor. Frontier Markets presently has 20 distributors, attaining a network of 2,000 retail shops that are named as Frontier Markets retail points.

The efficient distribution model of the company:

Basic steps by FM in creating a meaningful employment are:

  1. Recruitment: Frontier Markets’ team has a robust process of hunting right partner to trade products
  1. Training & Capacity Building: Personalized technical and entrepreneurial training and mentoring that will shape the partner’s confidence and ability to run and grow successful operations
  1. Marketing: Village and community activations for category specific demand generation, building consumer database and sustainable targeted re-engagement
  1. Fulfilment: Demonstration of product efficacy; taking orders; fulfilling demand and continuing to stay engaged.
  1. Monitoring, Evaluation and learning: The progress and success of the action are measured by key performance indicators to generate learnings, build a demonstrable proof of concept, and share best practices.

Distribution Model

Future plans:

Frontier Markets plans to support more rural villages in India by implementing more smart villages through a mixture of solar street lights and a solar community kiosk ran by an entrepreneur to engage households about clean energy, Wi-Fi, and educational services that will aid empower rural villagers. The company is also operating many projects in social welfare like Project LiFE ( Light for Education).

Future

It is working towards Women Empowerment, Education, Health, Last mile energy access and livelihood generation. It has already received many awards and is thriving towards creating an even larger impact.

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