With increasing rates of urbanization, the population of slum communities is growing. Jobs for youth are not. We create jobs that allow youth to earn an income and have an impact on their community as they distribute life-changing products that are not yet available in urban slum communities. Our products include clean burning cook stoves, solar lamps, reusable sanitary pads and eco-friendly fuel briquettes. These products offer cost-savings immediately or over time, in addition to improving the productivity and health of those living at the poverty line.
Through a survey of 278 youth living in urban slums, we learned that all of them had at one point sold something, from mangoes to illicit drugs. Identifying their informal sales experience as an “asset opportunity,” we explored complementary market opportunities. Our innovative idea is to utilize these youth’s survival skills, talent at identifying market opportunities, resourcefulness and connection to their communities by employing them in a sales agent network that specializes in penetrating hard-to-reach base of the economic pyramid markets.
We’ve learned that urban slum youth want (1) a low-risk opportunity that requires little upfront capital; (2) a chance to gain work experience, and learn while earning and (3) the opportunity to be part of a network that respects their desire for independence. Our approach (1) uses a low-risk micro-consignment model, allowing youth to repay the cost of the products only after successful sales; (2) invests in a youth’s potential, as we hire for attitude, and train for skills through an intensive training program with ongoing follow-up modules and (3) invites youth into a branded sales force of youth sales agents who are rewarded for their performance.
This model allows youth to build their financial capital by earning a stable income, to build their human capital by developing marketable sales skills, and to build their social capital by learning to effectively communicate and create relationships with customers and members of their community.