Weekly Review March 14-18


Every week at ID, we read a lot about what we do and what we like. This week we read a lot about mobile technology at the base of the pyramid.
CGAP focuses on branchless banking, and this post focuses on the three levers of adoption:  product, pricing, and agent. We’re particularly interested in the product lever, since we’re always looking for investment opportunities in start ups in the areas of mobile technology and alternative energy. CGAP’s product lever includes providing a product for low income customers that enables them to move their money and pay their bills (i.e. the Base of the Pyramid). FrogTek and SlimTrader, two BSP Fund investments, offer products like this. CGAP basically points out that the existing products and services are inadequate – 27% of BoP customers in South Africa have lost money using mobile wallets. In general the market is underserved and needs improvement. In fact, there is a need, an opportunity, for more companies like FrogTek and SlimTrader.
 Diego using FrogTek’s technology in Bogota
Photo Courtesy of FrogTek

FrogTek’s latest post is a report from the ground in Bogotá, where their product is being used every day. FrogTek provides mobile software applications for small retail shops, restaurants, or other micro-retailers at the Base of the Pyramid to manage their inventory efficiently and effectively.  Check out their blog for the first hand report at Damaris and Diego’s shop, where they use FrogTek’s application Tiendatek, saving them time and money and allowing them to grow their business.

This article reflects on the ironic high speed adoption of mobile phones in a country, Bangladesh, which lacks the electricity to charge said phones. This is exactly why at ID, we are committed to investing in the areas of alternative energy and mobile technology. Each is essential to the development of emerging markets, and the eradication of poverty at the BoP.  This astonishing fact: the mobile phone “sector will grow seven-fold in rural areas by 2015 despite a lack of an electricity network to feed the technology device,” is a call to entrepreneurs.  The article offers more staggering and frankly, encouraging, facts about the future growth of the industry and the need for mobile technology and alternative energy to come together.
This article is a good example of a big company innovating specifically for the base of the pyramid.  Smart Communications Inc., a Filipino company, is launching a “Panalo Phone” specifically designed for the segment of Filipinos – the BoP — that cannot afford mobile phones.  A simple design with basic features, the Panolo Phone will allow for the BoP’s inclusion in the mobile world.