Serving micro-retailers in Bangladesh
Transforming the “last mile” of distribution: orders, deliveries, credits and inventory to small shops
In Bangladesh, fast-moving consumer goods are sold through two million “mudir dokkan” street-corner shops and kiosks. Most manufacturers and brands work through a network of associated distributors to reach these shops and kiosks in every corner of this densely-populated country of 270 million people.
Previously, manufacturers and brands had low transparency about day-to-day operations in the “last mile” of their distribution networks: they did not know how many of which products had been sold, where, when, to whom. Because everything was being recorded with pen and paper, if at all, they had only vague ideas about what might have happened in the field. This lack of transparency led to many inefficiencies, such as large unknown areas in which the products were not being supplied at all or in which shops were often running low on stock, high rates of returns of unsold out-of-date products, poorly executed promotions, inability to offer advantages to reliable shops such as credit terms, discounts or refrigerators (since they did not know which ones were the reliable shops…), and other related challenges. For the small-business shop owners, the unpredictability and lack of trust and loyalty with the distributors and brands made it difficult to expand. For low-income households, it made access to basic goods comparatively expensive and unreliable.
Since 2016, companies in the fast-moving consumer goods sector of Bangladesh, including international brands such as Danone and local champions such as Akij Foods and Ispahani Tea, have been rolling out the Field Buzz smartphone-based software system in their distribution networks. Several thousand rickshaw delivery persons, working for hundreds of distributor companies throughout Bangladesh on behalf of dozens of manufacturers and brands, each carry a smartphone with the Field Buzz app and visit shops on their assigned routes. The shops and routes have been registered previously, and may have a unique QR-code affixed in the doorway. Scanning the QR-code through the Field Buzz app automatically recognizes the shop and pulls up its profile and transaction history. The delivery person then electronically records all orders, deliveries, stock levels, payments and credit transactions, saving time and effort compared to paper-based records. The information is sent to their managers and warehouses in real time via mobile internet. Of course, the commercially-sensitive data is confidential to each specific company and the Field Buzz system has robust security and data-protection measures in place.
The use of Field Buzz in these companies’ distribution networks has has radically improved the situation for the entire value chain, helping to increase employment and economic activity through the retail sector in low-income communities as well as supplying affordable groceries to millions of underserved families. Over 271,000 retailers are currently registered in the Field Buzz system for last-mile distribution in Bangladesh, accounting for the sale of over 82 million items so far. Field Buzz customers in the last-mile distribution sector report seeing an average 30% increase in sales in an area after a successful software roll-out to that area, through the greater operational excellence that they can achieve thanks to the software.